1970s: Vision of an Arctic institute
In the early 1970s, there was a debate in Finnish academic circles about establishing a special Arctic institute. In the late 1970s, the discussion became more specific and practical, and Rovaniemi was suggested as the location.
Behind the initiative was the Finnish section of the European Cultural Foundation, which was well-networked with Finnish cultural influencers. The model for the Arctic institute was the Arctic research centre established in France in 1958.
The vision crystallized into a proposal for the Finnish Arctic Museum, which would also be a centre for Arctic research and information. This set in motion an ambitious national project built on northern culture, history and identity.
1980s: Decisions on Arktikum and the Arctic Centre
The State required that the institute plan be linked to existing activities. A new institution for higher education was established in Rovaniemi in 1979, and its rector Esko Riepula proposed the Arctic Centre as a part of the new institution - later the University of Lapland. In addition, the city of Rovaniemi joined in as the Provincial Museum of Lapland needed new premises.
An international architectural competition was held for designing the Arctic museum. It was won by a group led by Claus Bonderup from Denmark, and their work is now known as the Arktikum building.
The plans became reality after it was decided to make Arktikum a project to celebrate Finland's 75th anniversary. Now it has become an iconic landmark representing modern Nordic architecture.
The Arctic Centre was established administratively at the University of Lapland in 1989. Its mission was to act as an information service and information centre, science centre and a coordinator for Arctic research.
1990s: The Centre seeks its role
Materials for the first main exhibition were collected by travelling across the Arctic. The glass tube with its exhibition halls was completed by Independence Day in 1992. The Arktikum building became an important attraction and meeting place instantly. Co-operation with schools was developed systematically. The office building was completed in 1997.
Major international and national missions were planned for the Arctic centre. At first, actual research was not part of tasks of the Arctic Centre. However, the International Scientific Advisory Board, which was set up to support the centre, considered research a priority, so the research activities began.
Multidisciplinarity has been emblematic to the research conducted at the Arctic Centre from the outset: natural, legal and social scientists were brought under one roof. The Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law at the University of Lapland was merged with the Arctic Centre in 1996.
Alongside research and the science centre, information service and libraries have been fundamental for the Arctic Centre's activities.
However, the activities of the centre did not quite take off. The early years of the Arctic Centre were characterized by rapid changes in leadership and the resulting instability caused by several reasons such as conflicting expectations between the various actors as well as resource issues.