Maritime Museums Bring Together Volunteers and Professionals. Projects for Collecting Traditions of Ship Engine Manufacturing in Turku and Shipbuilding in Rauma

Turku and Rauma in South-Western Finland are cities that both have long traditions in shipbuilding. Industrial shipbuilding boomed here after the Second World War when Finland paid large amounts of war reparations to the Soviet Union in the form of ships. In recent years the shipbuilding industry in Finland has changed dramatically: the ship engine factory in Turku was closed down in 2004 and the shipyard in Rauma in 2014. Both factories employed hundreds of workers who were consequently left unemployed.

The collection of traditions of ship engine manufacturing in Turku between the years 2008 and 2012 was a collaborative project composed of a close cooperation between the W46 Club, which was founded by former Wärtsilä employees, the Forum Marinum Maritime Museum and the Åbo Akademi Institute of Maritime History. Over the course of the project, a large archive collection was accumulated, two exhibitions were produced and the results of the research work were published in Forum Marinum's museum yearbook.

The Rauma Maritime Museum was able to use the experiences of the Turku project when the closing of the local shipyard was announced. The museum was active when the Rauma Shipbuilding Traditions Society was re-established. Together with the former shipbuilders, an extensive collection of shipbuilding items and archive material was collected and an exhibition was produced. As a result, in 2015 the Rauma Maritime Museum was awarded a Special Commendation by the Finnish Museums Association for its strong commitment to social responsibility.
Both projects have been rewarding from the viewpoint of the participating museum professionals. Museums have expertise in the field of collecting historical data but the shipyard workers have expertise in the field of ship engine manufacturing and shipbuilding itself.

One key factor in the success of these projects has been that their aims were well focused and shared with all participants. The projects were open to everyone but were mainly conducted together with clubs and societies which had their own organizational structures and volunteers. All along, the volunteers and museums working together knew what was expected on both sides and what was still to come.

Another very important issue was communication and equality. Instead of the museums leading the projects from above, each person involved was considered as an important and vital contributor. The museums weren’t the only partners to benefit from the cooperation either – it was give and take all the way.