One of the most important things to us here at the Atlas is to always keep traveling and discovering. Notes from the Field are first person reports from the most inspiring trips taken by the Atlas Obscura Team.
This fall, Dylan (Atlas co-founder and also my husband) and I spent two weeks in Finland. We were traveling with our good friend Jessica, who had spent the last year filming a documentary about reindeer herders in Lapland, and decided to leave the trip’s programing largely up to her. She is an Atlas Obscurian at heart and did not disappoint, guiding us around to all of the small, strange, out of the way spots.
Perhaps my favorite stop was the Arppeanum, also known as the University of Helsinki Museum. It’s just the kind of place I live for - a hodgepodge of old museums housed in a beautiful old building. At each turn, you’re face to face with teeth in glass domes, infant wax moulage, brass cartography tools, and gems and minerals held up by metal prongs. Each new room holds a differently themed collection, and each collection holds something fascinating and inspiring (like the terrifying dental model below).
Let’s take a tour through this stunning building and see some of the more intriguing items from this rambling collection.
Words cannot express my love for this dental practice head. That is a horror movie prop if I ever saw one.
The iron staircase is particularly beautiful
A broken skull with metal repairs
Dusty old apothecary equipment.
Obligatory case of glass eyes
Teeth, held up by thin wires, under little domes.
It’s unclear whether this moulage (wax models of disease) has seen better days, or whether the disease it represents gives it this flakey look.
Brass cartography instruments
Skull cross-sections on stands.
I think it’s always a good policy when, if you need to display some boring-looking meteorites, do it in strangely-shaped display case boasting an ocean theme. Note the tentacles, urchins, and the nautilus top.
Close up of one of those tentacles
Minerals held by metal tongs under glass domes
Who doesn’t love a good apothecary jar?
One of three rooms, packed to the brim with beautiful old display cases housing minerals.
This gem display feels like a prop from a fantasy story about wizards.
More metal pronged theme and variation (last one, I promise, though I have about 50 more pictures of these! I can’t get enough of them. There is something so appealing about this unique display method.)
Wooden models of gem cuts