The Observatory opens for the public in 2012

Preserving a piece is not the same thing as restoring it. It may well look old and worn, and should not be restored to its original state. This is the opinion of conservator Lasse Mattila who is currently occupied with restoring 18th- and 19th-century astronomical instruments for the University of Helsinki.

The Observatory opens for the public in 2012

The instruments belong to the Observatory that is part of the Helsinki University Museum.

The oldest object in the collection is a sextant from the 18th century. Another beautiful specimen is a heliometer from the 1850s. As the name indicates, it was originally designed for studying possible variations in the sun’s diameter.

Lasse Mattila runs his own business and is surrounded by beautiful objects more or less all the time.

– I haven’t worked with astronomical instruments before. The closest I’ve come to anything like this are various weapons and watches. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to work with instruments like these.

Restoration takes time

– I have four weeks to complete twenty objects. Some take only a couple of hours to complete, while others may need several days, says Mattila.

Mattila has made an ethical decision concerning the way he handles the instruments.

– I won’t take them apart. You see, it may prove difficult to put them back together again in exactly the same way. The instruments don’t have to shine like new ones; it’s okay if they look old.

Currently undergoing renovation, the Observatory will open its doors for the public in autumn 2012.

– It will be a kind of combined science museum and science centre, says Sten Björkman, Director of the Helsinki University Museum.

– There will be activities about astronomy designed especially for school groups.

The inauguration coincides with both the 200th anniversary of Helsinki as the capital of Finland and Helsinki World Design Capital.

Built in 1834, the Observatory is equipped with unique rotating towers. The architect Carl Ludvig Engel also designed several public buildings in the Helsinki city centre.

More about the history of the Observatory » »

Visit the Universeum website for more information about the cooperation between the European university museums » »

Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 » »

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Text: Nadine Aschan
Photo: Ari Aalto
Translation: AAC Global

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