Museum #1 – Hämeenlinna Prison Museum

A long days program was planned with four museums to visit. This is the first one we went to and it was Hämeenlinna Prison Museum.

Hämeenlinna city ain’t that big, not even compared to Helsinki, but it’s still rich in history. The city feels familiar to me, as I visited it during the summer months, when I visited my grandparents on my mother side, as they had a summer home close to Hämeenlinna, in the small town Parola.

I decided to pack the family into our car and head over to some museums I visited, and a a couple of new ones for me too. The museums we were to visit were the Prison Museum, Häme Castle, Museo Militaria and Parola Tank Museum. This is the first museum we visited on Wednesday 4.8. and therefore the first blog post. More to come from the others.

They did not like the idea to get left behind and behaved very well. Maybe we got them rattled enough about life in a prison, so hopefully they will stay on the right side of the law.

I joked to the kids, that if they don’t behave, we shall leave them there. We even tried it. But they seemed so saddened of the potential faith, we decided to take them with us still. 😉

Prison Museum

The prison was completed in 1871, and functioned up until 1993. In 1997 it was opened as a museum, and the largest prison museum in Finland. A reason I wanted to see it was because of my visit to Alcatraz in November 2019. The two prisons is not to be compared too much, as the inmates are of very different caliber, but the function of the facility is the same. Prisons in itself is a fascinating place, and for me the imagination starts running wild when thinking, reading or visiting the places.

The whole correctional system vary a lot between USA and Finland, but the criminals are the same. May it be the inmates can be much more brutal and more messed up in USA when compared to Finland. Not to say the Finnish inmates are that nice people. There are some really rotten individuals held up in this former active prison too.

One very distinct difference between the cells from Alcatraz and Hämeenlinna prison is that in Hämeenlinna the doors are solid. Alcatraz had barred doors where the inmates could see out, and what happened in the cells across the corridor. The cell size in Hämeenlinna prison was not much larger, and if one were to have stayed there for longer periods, it would definitely left it marks on the inmate. One significant thing the Finnish inmates were able to have in their cells after good behaviour was a TV in their cells, this would not have been a possibility in Alcatraz.

Although the prison is not really big, it has a lot of information on these black signs thru-out the tour. When reading, if possible, there’s very interesting fact available. Sadly as we have small kids, there is not the possibility to read with thought and time, as the kids just wants to go forward. What I did find a bit disappointing, both in Alcatraz, and here in Hämeenlinna was that very few cells were set up as they would have been. In Hämeenlinna prison there are more cells with stuff in them, but I would have hoped that even more cells would have been used. Now for instance these black signs were hanged on the side of a cell door, but then the door was closed, so I’m sure many have walked past them without noticing all of them.

The tour itself was well planned, and if you walked thru it you were first guided up to the second floor, where after you were guided to the first floor and even the basement with it’s rooms and functions. Due to the corona virus there was probably less people then usually, which was nice. One didn’t feel rushed by other visitors to move along. It was nice to see that a lot of the inmates writings and drawings was left as is for the visitors to see.

We recommend the visits, and the price was not too bad. We bought the “trio” ticket package, which gave us access to the three museums next to each others, meaning Prison Museum, the Castle and The Artillery, Engineer and Signals Museum of Finland. This package is 19 euros for adults. Children under 7 get’s in free of charge. Our oldest daughter is 8, and for her the ticket for all three museums was 9 euros.

If an adult would have wanted to visit only the prison museum, that would have been 10 euros, so pretty cheap.

Everybody found their way out and continued on our museum tour.

Some ideas of improvement for the museum.
First of all, there were too many cells closed. The cells are what people want’s to see, and now as most of them on the second floor in particular was closed, it felt a bit annoying to just walk by a row of closed doors. More of them should be opened, and set up as the inmates had them in their time. If there’s not enough of stuff to decorate the cells with, the black signs should be displayed better. One idea would be to open the cell doors, and set the information boards either hanging so the visitor could read them, or on some sort of stand.

Another improvement in my mind would be to focus maybe more on who the inmates had been, how long they housed there, and what sort of criminal act’s they had committed.

For the kids, there could be some sort of a treasure hunt, to look for and find different items along the way. Maybe bake into that “kids tour” reminders on why and how to obey the law from the get go.

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