History of the Finnish Postal Museum
The spiritual father of the Postal Museum is considered to be Postal Director Hj. Lagerborg (1842–1910). During his directorship (1887–1903), the Postal Administration started collecting old artefacts in its cupboards. The Postal Museum project truly gained momentum only after Finland had gained independence and the conditions had stabilised in 1918.
The Postal Museum found its first premises – four rooms – in Yrjönkatu, Helsinki, on 1 September 1926. The museum was opened to the public on 22 June 1927. In Yrjönkatu, the museum gained two additional rooms in the 1930s, expanding its area to 160 square metres. According to Curator Forsblom, the much-wanted expansion was made possible by “the sophisticated sympathy shown by the State and the Postal and Telegraph Administration as well as a warm interest in culture as obliged by our country’s independence.” Nonetheless, the museum lost its home in 1941 due to the war.
After the war, suitable premises could not be found for the Postal Museum, so it remained packed up.
In May 1954, the museum opened its doors in the Vaasa Postal Building, on 250-square-metre premises. However, the museum had to be closed at the end of 1958, because the premises were needed for other postal operations. Indeed, the museum’s operations in Vaasa had been planned to be temporary, and it had few visitors.
In February 1962, the museum opened as the Postal and Telegraph Museum in Tehtaankatu, Helsinki. This time, the new museum’s collections were complemented by collections gained during years of telegraph, telephone and radio operations. Located on two different floors of a block of flats, the museum’s total area was about 600 square metres. In the 1970s and 1980s, the museum managed to gain a little more space in the same building. Visitors had to move between flats via the staircases. The premises were not suitable for the purpose and not large enough. The museum’s name was changed to the Postal and Telecommunications Museum on 1 March 1971.
The 1970s saw several different museum work groups within the Postal and Telecommunications Authority. According to memorandums, the need for space varied from 1,200 square metres to 2,000 or up to 5,000 square metres. The 1980s were spent actively looking for new premises. In addition to Helsinki, available or otherwise possible premises were sought in Turku, Tampere, Hämeenlinna and Espoo. The idea that advanced the furthest was locating the museum in Tampere’s old postal and telegraph building, which dated back to the 1920s. In addition to surveying existing premises, a plan was prepared for a new building to be constructed in Ilmala, in connection with the head office. In the late 1980s, however, more attention was paid to the museum’s administrative model with the purpose of turning the museum into a foundation. This did not happen, and as Posti was turned into a public utility company, the decision was made to split the museum into two different museums, the Postal Museum and the Telecommunications Museum.
The latter moved to Vallila, where Posti-Tele’s telecommunications operations had concentrated. The Postal Museum stayed in Tehtaankatu, but the premises were not ideal. The search for better premises for the Postal Museum continued, until it was decided in 1992 to move the museum from Tehtaankatu to the Helsinki Main Post Office. The Postal Museum opened in the Helsinki Main Post Office at the beginning of March 1995.
The total area of exhibition premises and other premises for customers in the main post office was about 1,500 square metres, in addition to which office and work spaces and archive rooms were available in the same building. The museum in the Helsinki Main Post Office was revamped in 2003 and 2008.
The owner of the museum, Itella Group, was involved in the Epos project (2003–2007) with many other large Finnish corporations with the vision of creating “a large Finnish communications museum”. However, the project fell through.
Matching the goals of museum operations to Itella’s business objectives proved difficult. As a result, Itella’s Board of Directors decided on 19 June 2012 to transfer the ownership of the Postal Museum to the new Postal Museum Foundation to be established. The purpose of the foundation is to maintain and develop the Postal Museum.
The costs of the Postal Museum’s premises in the Helsinki Main Post Office became too heavy, for which reason the search for new premises started again in 2010. The museum closed its doors in the main post office on 21 June 2012. New, suitable premises, with about 650 square metres of exhibition space, were found in Museum Centre Vapriikki in Tampere, where the new Postal Museum was opened in 2014.
To secure the continuity of the Postal Museum’s operations, Itella’s Board of Directors decided in June 2012 to establish a foundation to which the Postal Museum was transferred. The decision-making body of the foundation is its Board, whose members are elected by Itella, the City of Tampere and the Finnish Museums Association. Itella signed a 12-year service agreement with the foundation, which is the backbone of its finances.