The competition is held by the Finnish Museum Association and the Finnish committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The other finalists are Helinä Rautavaara Museum and Sarka – the Finnish Museum of Agriculture. The prizes should have been awarded in the Museum award gala held during the National Museum Week, in Espoo on 14 May 2020. Due to the Covid-19 situation all the three finalists continue straight to the Museum of the Year 2021 final.
More attractive than ever
Pharmacy Museum and The Qwensel House is one of the six museums of Turku Museum Centre. It is a charming little museum in the inner city, featuring an upper-class home from the 18th century and an apothecary from the 19th century under the same roof. The Qwensel House is the oldest preserved wooden house in Turku.
After a large-scale renewal project, the museum re-opened its doors to the public in its 60th anniversary celebration in 2018, now more accessible, clearer and more attractive than ever.
Principles of lightness, freshness and accessibility
The two museum themes – The Pharmacy Museum and The Qwensel House – were separated into more distinctive entities during the renewal. In The Qwensel House, the visitors follow the story of the family of Joseph Pipping, a professor of medicine who lived in the building in the 18th century. The Pharmacy Museum, on the other hand, tells the history of 19th century well-being.
The historic, sheltered courtyard also became part of the exhibition in the renewal, offering the visitors a peaceful summertime oasis away from the bustling city centre while teaching them the history of traditional and medicinal plants. The courtyard’s Café Qwensel pays homage to history and it is often said to be the best café in Turku.
One of the central goals of the renewal project was to improve the museum’s accessibility. Today, moving around the museum is easier thanks to ramps, modified thresholds and new, accessible toilet and customer service facilities. Improved lighting and new signs bring more clarity to the rooms.
The museum operations also include various guided tours, events and Experience Path activities, which are arranged in cooperation with the City of Turku’s comprehensive education services. Contents produced in connection with the renewal project, such as voice guidance, information available on touchscreens and children’s materials, all support independent learning.
The summer theatre held in the small carriage house brings up surprising tidbits about the museum’s history. The Christmas season exhibition and the traditional events linked to it attract people to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in the middle of busy Turku, year after year.
The museum renewal has also made several new operational ideas possible. In 2019, one widely praised event was the Time Jump to the 18th Century (Aikahyppy 1700-luvulle), where costume enthusiasts came to the museum to spend a moment in the milieu of the era. The Qwensel House’s parlour is an authentic, intimate venue for chamber music concerts and lectures. Most of the events are executed in cooperation with external operators, such as university researchers and artistic groups.
Increasing visitor numbers and positive feedback
The visitor feedback for the renewed museum has been very positive. The number of visitors has increased steadily compared to previous years, and the new museum shop has also found its customer base. In 2019, the number of visitors was 20,000, whereas in 2017 the number was 12,500. In part, the increase can be attributed to the fact that the renewal enabled the museum to keep its doors open all year round.
The average grade of the customer survey carried out after the renewal was 4.33 on a scale from 1 to 5. The special strengths of the museum were, according to the respondents, the interesting exhibitions and the highly competent staff that serve visitors while dressed in the costumes of the era. In total, 91% of the visitors would like to visit the museum again.
Previously, the Museum of the Year prize has been awarded to Satakunta Museum, EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki City Museum, the Åland Maritime Museum, Art museum Gösta and Forssa Museum. Pharmacy Museum and Qwensel House is proud and thankful of having been chosen among the finalists.