Aboa Vetus is a historical museum and a roofed archaeological area underground. It explores the vast and fascinating history of Finland's oldest city in the middle of actual ruins.
Historically speaking the museum area belongs to one of medieval Turku's four main districts – The Convent Quarter. The majority of the ruins, pathways and basements found in the museum are indeed from the Middle Ages. The oldest cellars have been dated to the 14th century while some of the ruins also show soil layers of urban dwelling until the beginning of the 20th century.
The permanent exhibiton of Aboa Vetus tells the tale of old Turku and its inhabitants with the help of archaeological finds and display texts. Temporary exhibitions present various interesting themes such as the soundscapes of medieval Turku, the inhabitants of the Convent Quarter through the centuries, or the life of children during the Finnish Middle Ages.
Above the underground Aboa Vetus is the the former Rettig palace which now functions as a museum of contemporary art – Ars Nova. The first floor of Ars Nova displays four changing exhibitions each year while an exhibition from Matti Koivurinta Foundation's art collection can be found on the second floor twice a year. Some of the temporary exhibitions also fill Ars Nova's second floor. This is also where the Takkahuone-gallery is located.
Ars Nova has a space of altogether 600 square metres reserved for contemporary art. The Rettig palace, which was originally designed as a private home for the Rettig family, now functions as an art museum. Exhibition rooms of various sizes circle the second floor of Ars Nova – together these rooms form an intimate space. The first floor shows only small signs of the space's original purpose as the palace's cellar.
Several bedrooms of the Rettig family were once located on Ars Nova's second floor. Original interior design can still be seen in the exhibition space, e.g. a green marble bathroom or a hall covered with hardwood. The second floor is very different from Ars Nova's first floor as an exhibiton space mainly due to the fantastic view over the Rettiginrinne garden and Nunnankatu.
Omatila-gallery's exhibitions display mainly artworks made both in various educational projects and in cooperation with the public. Works that discuss the past and the present in a varied way are displayed in the gallery. Five to six exhibitions are displayed each year. Works by students graduating from the Arts Academy of Turku University of Applied Sciences are on display in the gallery once a year.
The Omatila-gallery can be found right next to the museum shop on the first floor. The gallery is open free of charge and can be visited by anyone within the museum opening hours.
The presentation of contemporary art found in Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova is completed by the Takkahuone Gallery opened in 2011. The Takkahuone Gallery offers the museum a chance to present smaller exhibition projects and to extend various contemporary art themes to a wider current perspective. Four temporary exhibitions can be found annually in the gallery. The artist-in-residence program maintained by the museum invites one artist to display his or her works in the gallery every year.
The Takkahuone Gallery is located at the upper floor of the museum, in the western corner of the building. Its windows offer a view over the city. During Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova's 21 years of operation the gallery has had multiple functions, from a project exhibition space to a warehouse.
The contents of the gallery change in the same rhythm with Ars Nova's other exhibitions.