The first museums in Finland were established at the end of the 19th century due to the inspiration caused by national awakening. In Vaasa the local initiative was made by the Ostrobothnian historical museum association, which wanted to ďBring about an interest towards the cultivation of patriotism and patriotic remembrance in all social classesĒ. The associationís goal was to collect items and literary material from Ostrobothnia that would further scientific research and in time would make a permanent museum exhibition opening possible. The main focus was on collecting ancient finds, ecclesiastical items, books and writings, money and medals, costumes, furniture, household items, and items from the war.
Professor Karl Hedman is tightly linked with the Vaasa museumís functions. He was a doctor, but also an enthusiastic collector of art and antique items. He was chosen to be on the museum board of directors in 1899. He created the guidelines for the museumís functions and was, to a large extent, responsible for the management of practical matters in the museum. Both the museumís and Hedmanís own collections increased with substantial historical items and valuable works of art. This was all due to Hedmanís hobbies and his industriousness. In 1931, just before his death, he founded, together with his wife Elin Hedman, the Hedman Foundation that was to be left in charge of the estate. Today, Hedmanís collections belong to the city of Vaasa.
The museumís original purpose, as the name indicates, was to document and shed light on cultures in an extensive region. The museum association managed the museumís functions with fluctuating resources until the year 1990, when the city of Vaasa officially took charge of the collections and the administration. Today, the Ostrobothnian museum functions as the City museum. After the wars the museum became more professional and due to this the number of personnel increased. In addition, the museum was divided administratively into the department of cultural history and the department of art. When the museum was named as the provincial museum in 1981 and as the regional art museum in 1983 the museumís region of operation stretched outside of Vaasa with its provincial cultural history researcherís position and archeological and artistic position. In 1990 the natural science department was attached to the museum. Today, this department works in co-operation with the Ostrobothnia Australis association and the National Board of Forestry.
The first ever museum exhibition was opened in temporary premises in 1896. Hedmanís collections and the museumís main exhibition of cultural history are on display, for the modern visitors to see, in the museum building that is designed by the architect Eino Forsman. The building was completed in 1929. The modern extension that is designed by Erik KrŚkstrŲm was completed in 1969. The museumís cafeteria and exhibition hall are located in this building. In 2002 the natural science exhibition called Terranova was opened in the museumís ground level. The exhibition is about land elevation in the Kvarken region. In 1997, after the reform of the administrative court, the museum was given possession of the former governorís official residence. The address of the residence is Koulukatu 2. The museum administration, offices, library, and archives are also situated at this address.