Embracing Historical Turku

Embracing Historical Turku was a tourism research project conducted in 2014 in Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum of Turku. Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Education, the project aimed at studying the following; perceptions and interpretations international museum visitors have of the Finnish history, what these museum visitors understand of the Finnish history while in Aboa Vetus, and if these international visitors are pleased with their overall museum experience. The project was executed in two steps by firstly  researching e.g. tourist brochures and webpages in order to grasp what sort of information is provided for foreign museum visitors of Aboa Vetus, and secondly, by conducting a visitor study in the museum space. This study was divided into two methods; interviewing international museum visitors and gathering data from a paper survey. The aim of the study was to investigate international museum visitors of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova; who are they, what do they think of the historical Aboa Vetus and how do they perceive the Finnish Middle Ages.

The findings of the study suggest that international visitors are overall pleased with their stay at Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum, they view the museum services as satisfactory and feel that the Finnish history presented to them at the museum is comprehensible and fairly clearly executed. The great majority of the museum visitors understand the origin of the Aboa Vetus' ruins and view the Finnish Middle Ages as an interesting and versatile time period. Themes such as the Swedish rule, Turku Castle, knights, Christianity arriving in Finland and Turku Cathedral are associated with the Middle Ages in Finland. Turku as a city is strongly linked together with the medieval period by the museum visitors. 

The research was conducted by interviews and question sheets. A small focus group of internationals residing or temporarily staying in Turku was collected for the study. Three research subjects participated in Think Aloud -interviews whereas three others attended a guided tour and afterwards gave comments of the tour. All informants filled out question sheets consisting of 15 questions. This question sheet remained open at Aboa Vetus as all international visitors were welcome to fill it out. A total of 72 answered surveys was gathered at the end of the study.

Cultural tourism was found important and relevant for this study as it emphasises the importance of the destination country's cultural and historical heritage. Thus cultural tourists are key customers for museums which promote and maintain a country's heritage. This project and its report can be seen as a mere introduction, on the one hand, to cultural tourism, and on the other hand, to the nature of the international visitors of Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova.

Key words: cultural tourism, museum, history, the Middle Ages, Finland, Turku, heritage