The sunshine tickles my cheeks as I make my way through the cobbled streets. It’s not yet ten in the morning. I hear steps behind me, others are arriving here too. Beautiful old wooden buildings rise around me, the majority of which are houses. I stop to admire a boutique’s window display with pretty decorations made of lace and pearls. I can also see a marketplace with vendors selling clothes and handicrafts. I’m in Old Rauma and it’s the middle of the Rauma Lace Week, a traditional event here.
I’m heading towards the Kalatori, the old fish market, and I can hear that someone is playing music there. It gets louder the closer I get. On the corner of a wooden house, I can see a sign that encourages people to come test how many trees they can recognise. I wonder if I would be any good…I look ups from the sign and notice a truck and some tents in front of it. Here, the music is mixed with laughter and the scent of fresh coffee. I can see the Bio Era truck, a new kind of a science centre exhibition in the oh so traditional environment of Old Rauma. It’s such a fascinating view!
I approach the entrance of the truck. Inside there are other interested visitors: parents with small children, and some elderly people as well. They push various buttons to see what happens. A man is guiding an elderly visitor with the scanner so they can get more information about sample products. The man is Heikki Hepoaho from the Finnish Science Centre Pilke. He is responsible for the content and implementation of the exhibition. I want to talk with him.
“This Bio Era Tour is the forestry sector's gift to Finland as it celebrates 100 years of independence. The tour will stop in 100 locations around Finland, starting with events in the summer and then carrying on to schools in the autumn. The tour itself is unique because it’s the biggest one ever arranged by collaborative effort in Finland. With this exhibition, we want to explain to people how we have managed the Finnish forests well for the past 100 years, and how we will be able to continue to use them for the next 100 years.”
“Young people are the target audience for this tour, because they are future professionals. It is good to show them the possibilities forests provide us so that they gain an interest in becoming part of the forest industry and developing it further,” Hepoaho explains. After the summer tour, the truck continues touring by visiting schools in 50 locations around Finland. The students get to visit the exhibition as part of the classes. In the evenings the exhibition is open to all.
“For me, the best part of the project has been seeing the faces of delighted and enlightened visitors when they discover new things here. The best way to achieve these enlightening moments is by trying things yourself.”
I start to observe what the visitors are actually doing in the exhibition. There’s a couple reading a board intensively, then they select another button and continue reading. They see something that gets them talking, and I decide to jump in. What do they think of the exhibition?
Joonas Rossi and Reetta Hentilä
“I’ve learnt a lot at the exhibition, even though I knew quite a lot before,” Joonas Rossi says. “It’s a huge plus when exhibitions like this have interactive elements, it makes it much more exciting! More museums and exhibitions should utilise this facility better,” compliments Reetta Heinilä. They are both 30 years old, so the Bio Era exhibition seems to speak to a much wider audience than just the one it’s targeted at!
I head back outside into the sunlight. I take a look at the market place: I can see UPM’s tents with people around them, some drinking coffee, some talking. I go closer and see that a family is being given a presentation of the innovations at another tent. I don’t want to interrupt them, so I start talking with the ladies in green T-shirts giving out seedlings, clearly staff members. What are they doing here?
“There are experts here from the UPM Rauma paper mill and UPM Forest. It’s great to participate in national events like this together! Our visitors are delighted by the spruce seedlings we’ve given out that they can plant at home. People can look at their tree in the future and remember that they planted it when Finland turned 100 years old. It makes a great memory!” says Forest Specialist Sini Nikula.
When I ask about UPM’s presence here in Rauma besides this Bio Era event, an expert from the paper mill, Katariina Valtonen, shares her knowledge gained during 20 years of experience: “UPM has had a strong position in Rauma for a long time, partially because we are a large employer. But residents also know us from various practical cooperation projects that have provided them with benefits, such as the common water treatment system with the City of Rauma, and our bioenergy plant that provides heat to the residents. In addition, the employees have gone around local schools informing pupils about the possibilities of forest industry. It’s also great to be involved with this well-known event, as it means we can meet people from other locations, too!”
Rauma Lace Week seems to draw visitors from near and far. Even though the lace is no longer the visible element of the event, the atmosphere here in Old Rauma is special. I plan to head to the street flea markets next, where the residents of these beautiful wooden houses welcome people into their backyards. The inspiring atmosphere at the Bio Era truck starts fading back to nostalgia. The music gets quieter and eventually fades out as I walk away.
Kuvat: Juha Sinisalo