Mice are not usually a welcome sight in libraries and archives, especially when those buildings house the entire historical record of a country. But in a surprisingly whimsical gesture, the National Archives of Finland has appointed a tiny furry ambassador to greet guests.
With a pencil hefted on one shoulder, the diminutive rodent appears ready to sign documents, sketch portraits, or perhaps build a tiny log cabin. The artwork is titled “Viisas Hiiri” (“Wise Mice”), so no doubt the critter has something very clever planned. It was sculpted by artist and punk rocker Jyrki Siukonen and installed in 2000.
Many visitors to the archives probably miss the mouse. It’s not exactly hiding, but its size and location make it hard to spot. It’s on a stone ledge beside a staircase leading up to the building’s cafe.
Another part of the sculpture is located indoors on the second floor. The mouse’s co-conspirator crouches on a bronze book beside a ladder, keeping lookout over its pencil-wielding friend. The book is inscribed with the Latin proverb “Verba volant, scripta manent,” which translates to “spoken words fly away, written words remain.” Alluding to the permanence of written documents, it’s a fitting motto for the national archives.
The sculpture is well-loved in Helsinki—perhaps too much, as it has required more maintenance than expected. It’s so small that parts of it have occasionally vanished without a squeak.