Memories of the city

19.11.2019 10:29

What does a city remember? In this blog post and in her new exhibition, Monica Tennberg discusses where to find the memories of Rovaniemi.

This is a topical, controversial issue in the city of Rovaniemi. The city centre is being rebuilt third time around within one hundred years. The reconstruction has taken place after the fire of 1909, the destruction of 1944 war of Lapland, and now in the last ten years or so when the remaining “old” houses, that is, houses mostly built after the Second World War, are being dismantled and new buildings are being built or planned to be constructed. The city of Rovaniemi appears for locals and visitors a city without a history, without memories. There is no sense of history in the city. 

This is of course not the whole truth. The city remembers, memorizes and forgets purposefully, accidentally and selectively. In an exhibition in the Galleria Kopio, at the main campus of University of Lapland, I examine material traces of memories, places and spheres of memory in the city focusing to the area in the northern part of current city centre called Sahanperä. The name of the area refers to the history of this place of sawmills and railroad connections from the early 20th century. Historically, the area is considered a marginal, peripheral area with a questionable reputation dominated by poverty, alcoholism and crime. Today, the area is known for the location of Arktikum- and Pilke houses and the park along the Ounasjoki river. In fact, local, collective and institutional memories cross each other in many ways in this area.

Here are a couple of photographs from my exhibition: 


The rock on the island in front of the Arktikum house reminds us about the times when there were several sawmills working (1910-1930s) on the shore of the Ounasjoki River.


A comment under the bridge nearby the Arktikum house built in 1966 serving the highway and connection to the North. In this photograph, there are several layers of memories, the bridge built by German engineers, and contemporary art including both the reindeer head and a statement of “Rovaniemi loves/loves you not”. 

The exhibition is part of my research project to study urban arcticness in the city of Rovaniemi. The exhibition will be open in the Galleria Kopio (University of Lapland, main campus, F-house, 1st floor) 26.11.–19.12.2019. The opening of the exhibition takes place on Monday 25.11. at 18.The exhibition will be open from Monday to Friday 8–20 and Saturday 9–16. 

Text and pictures: Monica Tennberg