S & T - Sami Culture & Tromso Museum | ABC's of Tromso

Copyright: Tromso Museum

Copyright: Tromso Museum

This series has been going on for a while now but I haven't even written about the two main museums of the city: Tromso Museum and the Polar Museum.

Might be that you come to Tromso for its beauty and scenery. You want to see the Northern Lights and that's it. But I can assure you, even if you're not that into museums - you definitely miss out on something if you don't visit at least one of the two.

They both are part of the University and while the Polar Museum focusses on history and polar expeditions (makes sense in the city where most expeditions to Spitzbergen and the North Pole started), Tromso Museum is divided into a natural science department (where you can learn more about the Northern Lights and various Arctic animal species) and a cultural department where you can get to know the culture of the Sami people.

The Sami, as indigenous people of Scandinavia, are an important part of Northern Norway and visiting Tromso without learning more about them would be a waste of time. And I don't just say that because I'm doing my Masters in Indigenous Studies. I'm saying this because you cannot not be interested in reindeer herding, joik, shamanism and old stories and legends about the Northern Lights.

I won't write about their culture in detail here today and I'm by no means being paid to recommend Tromso Museum to you but I just honestly think that this is the best place to get to know the ancient and modern culture of the only indigenous people in Europe.

There are a couple of businesses who toy around with Sami culture in and around Tromso - many of them run by non-Sami who make use of Sami culture for profit - but the University Museum is definitely one of the more genuine places. And of course, there's no way to summarize and present the culture of 80000 people in a way that it lives up to the expectations of all of them so the museum had to deal with criticism from many Sami, mainly in regards to their exhibition on ancient Sami culture.

But I personally think that the contrast between that exhibition and the one on modern Sami culture is the best way to break up old stereotypes and make people reconsider their opinion of the Sami as reindeer herders and backward people living in tents (because if you didn't know already, not all of them are reindeer herders and they also don't live in tents anymore).

The exhibition also deals with the struggle of the Sami people in Norway to gain recognition and rights during the 1980s, the treatment of them by the Norwegian government after WWII and their experiences during the war.

The museum could maybe spruce the exhibitions up a little but all in all, I can only recommend you to visit Tromso Museum if you're interested in Sami culture and of course the Polar Museum if you're interested in polar expeditions. You can get a combi ticket for both for only 60NOK which is a pretty good deal considering that this is Norway!

Planning on visiting Tromso? Any museums on your itinerary?