The History of Riihisaari
The rocky promontory known as Riihisaari has a long history predating its current vocation as a site for museum exhibitions, public events and nature lovers. What was it used for in the past? And what does that name mean, anyway?
The history of Riihisaari is closely intertwined with that of Olavinlinna Castle. In the 16th century it served as the port for the castle’s war boats, known as kavassi, hence its previous name of “Kavassi Island”, Kavassisaari. It was indeed an island, though connected to the mainland by a bridge in 1582. In 1617 the border of the empires competing over Finland shifted to the east, making the castle’s large navy and port obsolete, and the island came to house a number of grain-drying kilns, or riihi. The name Riihisaari has stuck ever since.
In the beginning of the 19th century, the Grand Duchy of Finland entered its ”Age of Autonomy” under Russian rule. In those times Riihisaari hosted military barracks, a smithy, warehouses and some vegetable gardens. The bridge to the mainland was 51 metres long and 8 metres wide, albeit dilapidated. A new bridge was built in 1850, following the announcement that Riihisaari would host a new royal granary.
The building was designed by architect Ernst Lohrmann. Completed in late 1852, it functioned as a granary until 1921. From then on, the island was mostly used as storage for boats and firewood. The island’s pier was used as a so-called ”dung dock”, where manure from the town’s privies was gathered as fertilizer for the local peasantry to come and collect by boat.
In the 1930’s, the old granary of Riihisaari became the central storehouse of the Military District of Savonlinna. Other military facilities on the island included a laundry, a repair shop for shoes and clothes, and living quarters for regular staff.
In 1963, ownership of Riihisaari passed to the municipality of Savonlinna. In 1965, the old granary and its environs were the first site in Finland to be legally protected as a building of cultural and historical importance. From then on the building saw some sporadic use, including as a summertime restaurant and art gallery, until 1985, when the Savonlinna Provincial Museum moved in.
Having served as a museum for over 30 years, the building underwent extensive repairs and renovations between 2019 and 2021. During that period the museum was temporarily relocated to the old library building on nearby Nälkälinnanmäki Hill.
The History of the Museum of Savonlinna
Museological activity in Savonlinna dates back to the 1924 founding of “St. Olaf’s Guild”, an association for supporting local museums and the maintenance of Olavinlinna Castle. Over the decades, the Guild amassed a collection of items that would later serve as the basis for the Savonlinna Provincial Museum’s collection of roughly 20 000 artefacts and 100 000 photographs. The old granary in Riihisaari was made into the Museum of Savonlinna in 1984, and a year later was officially named the Provincial Museum of South Savo, now covering the history of all 25 municipalities in the region.
Like all museums, the Museum of Savonlinna is a part of our society’s collective memory bank, seeing to the passing on of information from past generations to future ones. We record, investigate and exhibit historical items from the region of South Savo, while also producing new, reliable information on regional history. Our fields of specialization are the history of ships and sailing on Lake Saimaa, and the local culture of the people dwelling on the Saimaa’s many islands.
The old system of Provincial Museums was recently discontinued, and as such the Savonlinna Provincial Museum was renamed in 2021 as Riihisaari – The Savonlinna Museum. The museum still retains coverage of the entire region of South Savo, and is constantly developing more activities and opportunities for cooperation throughout the area.
Customer Service Riihisaari
Tel. 044 417 4466
Postal Address: Riihisaari, 57130 Savonlinna
Visiting Address: Riihisaari
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