In 1984 the building was completely renovated for museum use. The new basic exhibition was completed in October of 2002. The exhibitions cover about 1100 square meters on four levels and are captioned in English.
In addition to its basic exhibition, the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum has also produced an extensive multimedia program which consists of the following themes: tar and shipping, the town planning of Oulu and growth of the city and traditional cooking and clothing. The program can be viewed in English on the public computers.
Finnish prehistory can be divided into three ages: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The earliest period in Finnish prehistory dates back to about 9000 B.C. when the first inhabitants arrived after the latest ice age. The collection of objects on display at the Department of Prehistory illustrate, among other things, the important role of seals in the lives of hunter-gatherers.
In the Department of Folk Culture, one can familiarize oneself with keeping cattle, as well as the traditional peasant style of architecture and typical clothes of the time.
The city's history began in 1605 when King Karl IX of Sweden founded the city of Oulu. History of the Oulu Castle, which was located at the mouth of the Oulujoki river, goes back even further. Artifacts from the 15th century have been found in excavations carried out on the Linnansaari island where the castle was located.
The architectural history of the city is represented by scale models. The biggest of these models covers an area of 18 m2 and depicts Oulu before the Second World War in the year 1938.
At the end of the 1700s, twelve glass factories were built in Finland, among them the Nyby glass factory in Olhava, in the district of Ii, built in 1782. Nyby was founded by Johan Mattson Nylander, a trader from Oulu. Factories from different industrial branches, such as leather and sweet factories as well as wool mills have operated in Oulu.
This exhibition presents the road of learning of the people of Oulu from the 17th century up to present day – from primary school to the University of Oulu, which was established in 1958. In the 1970s rental housing was scarce in Finland and consequently many Finnish university students were housed in attic rooms and outbuildings.
The Department of Church History presents the best-known church artists of the area. A pulpit from an old block pillar church in Oulunsalo was painted by Mikael Toppelius in 1764.
The life of officials and citizens of Oulu from the Gustavian period of the 18th century to the functionalism of the 1930s is on display in the museum. A kitchen from the 1970s is also on display.
The museum's oldest silver exhibits are from the 1700s. Before the goldsmiths of Oulu had their own guild, they belonged to the guilds of Stockholm and Turku, which imparted its own influence. Pictured left is a silver tankard made by Anders Bruse , who lived in Oulu during the 1670–80s. The tankard is decorated with tulips.
The location of the city by the sea made direct connections abroad possible. Oulu was quite an international town as early as the late 18th century. The wealth of the city was mainly based on tar and timber trade.
The Northern Ostrobothnia Museum Department of Lapland is a tribute to the life-work of Samuli Paulaharju (1875–1944), an author and folklorist. His personal study is on display in the department.
BASEMENT floor: The Doghill Kids
At the end of May 1997, an exhibition titled "The Doghill Kids" was opened at the Museum of Northern Ostrobothnia. This exhibition is something different. It is based on some of the Doghill books written by Finnish author Mauri Kunnas and represents traditional rural life in 19th century Finland.