The Sami Collections in Karasjok are part of the extensive museum of Sami history and culture. Why not have a walk around the beautiful artefacts?

Sámiid Vuorká-Dávvirat

Sámiid Vuorká-Dávvirat (The Sami Collections) in Karasjok form part of the RiddoDuottarMuseat foundation, together with three other museums. The others are in Kautokeino, Porsanger and Kvalsund. The museum is dedicated to Sami history and culture.

Goahti — Sami tent

Right in the middle of the exhibition rooms, you will find a goahti — a Sami tent. This is the mobile version of the traditional dwelling. It is supported by two pairs of curved poles that are held in place by a cross-piece and two cross-beams. This basic structure forms the support for thinner poles that are laid around the walls. The outside covering is a broad sheet of wool, loavdda, or a thinner material such as canvas.

Lavvo, goahti and turf huts

A simpler version of this dwelling is the lavvo. There is more room in a goahti, and it's more comfortable than a lavvo. In places where a more permanent dwelling was needed, or if people were going to live somewhere for long periods before moving on, they built a turf hut — a non-moveable version of the goahti. This has walls of turf and birchbark, and a more solid basic structure consisting of thicker curved rafters and bars. You can see examples of these in the open-air part of the museum.

An orderly tent

There isn't much room in a tent, so there is a place for everything, and everything has its place. The floor area in a goahti is divided into five sections. Seen from the entrance door, a centre line is formed by the uksageahče (door end), then the ára (fireplace) and the boaššu (kitchen area) through the floor area. The area on each side of these makes up the loaiddut, where the occupants live and sleep. The floor of each loaidu is covered with birch twigs with reindeer skins laid over them. Various items of equipment are also kept in the loaidu, such as the dried blister sedge that is used instead of socks inside the fur boots. Members of the family occupy the spaces furthest inside the tent. The area closest to the door opening is kept for guests and servants. A goddess called Sáráhkká lived underneath the fireplace, and it was customary to sacrifice a splash of coffee to her. An optional inner tent could be hung to protect people from the cold or insects while they slept.

Duodji handicrafts and dáidda art

The glass cases of artefacts are like little treasure chests of beautiful things. Horn spoons, small band looms made from bone, knife handles, pin cushions and bowls made out of birch burrs were decorated with beautiful patterns. A rigid geometry was the rule in the southern Sami regions, whereas northern Sami ornamentation shows lighter, more fluid lines. Embroidery with pewter wire was very widespread in the southern Sami area, while the eastern Sami people in Finland and the Kola peninsula in Russia tended towards colourful pearl embroidery. The museum also has a unique collection of Sami contemporary art, which is displayed in exhibitions that change frequently.

Traditional costumes

Sami costumes are also displayed in the permanent exhibitions, including hats, belts and details from the costumes. The costumes vary from area to area in the Sami homelands, but certain elements of the costumes also show which family someone belongs to, who they are related to, or whether they are married or not. Since this is a living costume tradition, the clothes are constantly changing. The wearer's and the seamstress's personal taste also plays a part.

 Goavddis — the shaman drum

The museum has three shaman drums on display. The shaman drum was the noaidi's, the shaman's tool for communicating with the spirit world and Sáivo, the world where the dead continued their lives. Throngs of tiny figures decorate the drum skins, representing the deities. In the south of the Sami homelands, the figures are centred around the symbol of the sun, whereas in the north, the figures are laid out in rows. The noaidi Poala-Ánde, who was born in Torneå and lived in Utsjok and then Varanger, was imprisoned and his drum confiscated in 1692. A replica of this is on display.

Old buildings

The museum has an open-air section consisting of a number of small wooden houses, a mountain lodge, turf huts and reconstructions of storage facilities that show the building techniques of the Finnmark plain. A unique River Sami farm that survived the German razing of the area during the last World War can be seen here.

Visiting the Sámiid Vuorká-Dávvirat

The museum is open all year round, but has extended opening hours and regular guided tours during the summer. http://www.riddoduottarmuseat.no is the museum's website.