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Elina Anttila

Anna Elina Anttila (née. Lähteenmäki)
Born April 11, 1963, Helsinki

BA 1990 (Art History, General History), PhD 2001 (Art History), University of Helsinki

Director General of the National Museum of Finland 2014-
Director of museum services at the National Museum of Finland 2013–2014
National Museum of Finland’s reorganization project director for the National Board of Antiquities 2013
Acting director general of the National Museum of Finland 2012
Director of museum development and information management at the National Board of Antiquities 2011–2012
Head curator of picture collections at the National Board of Antiquities 2008–2011
Researcher at the National Museum of Finland’s Collections and research division 2001–2008
Researcher at the Cygnaeus Gallery 1991–2001

Photo: Kristiina Mannikko
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Constant change is good for you?

Elina Anttila has had a long career in the field of museums, working in several even as a student. But it was more or less happenstance that she ended up studying Art History.

‘Initially I studied German at the university, after which I studied French.’

Anttila’s original plan was to be a language teacher.

‘At some point, however, I started to feel like I didn’t want to be a teacher after all. I thought that languages are tools for me, but I still needed something to work on and communicate in that language. I didn’t know what that something would be. I had been interested in art ever since I was at school so I thought I would study Art History until I knew what I wanted to do.’

Art History turned out to be the field for Anttila. After graduating with an MA, she was employed as a researcher at the Cygnaeus Gallery of the National Board of Antiquities in 1991, a position she held for over ten years. During those years, she finished her doctoral dissertation and had three children. She continued as a researcher at the National Museum of Finland until 2008, studying Russian porcelain, among other topics.

‘Then the position of head curator of picture collections opened up. I applied since I was interested in management. In the picture collections, I was fascinated by the history of photography and photographs themselves. I think photographs, videos and films provide us with good opportunities to place objects in a more multi-layered world.

Since then, she has moved from one management position to the next, leading the reorganization of the National Museum and being director of museum services before taking on her current role, Director General of the National Museum of Finland, in 2014.

‘It has been a long road. I’ve worked for the National Board of Antiquities for exactly half of my life now. I have been lucky to be able to move on in my career when still young. But I have always invested a lot of myself in the positions that I have held. In the end, that has ensured that I have been able to get ahead.

Photo by Kristiina Männikkö.​
Photo by Kristiina Männikkö.​

As the Director General, Anttila is in charge of a vast whole, managing ten museums, the acquisition of collections as well as their conservation. The permanent staff is more than 100 people.

‘I don’t have time to get involved in details. The contents, actions and events are largely created at other levels.’

Instead, Anttila’s responsibility is to show the bigger scheme of things. She has to make choices and to draft the criteria by which the National Museum chooses what kind of activities are the right ones for it.

‘An integral part of this is brand creation. A brand is not a value in itself, but it is a mirror that reflects what we want to be. Through that, we have to be constantly able to look for and recognize what our core activities are and how we should change. Change is constant and permanent, after all, and I think that ensuring that everything is constantly changing is the task of the manager.’

In practice, Anttila’s work days mostly involve various kinds of meetings.

‘And I don’t mind at all that I get to meet people all the time in this job. I personally think that the best ideas never occur to a single person alone. They always require several people working on the same thing. These are the ingredients of good solutions and good decisions.

The National Museum building. Photo credit: National Board of Antiquities / Simo Rista.​
The National Museum building. Photo credit: National Board of Antiquities / Simo Rista.​


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