As the ESTO Festival took place in Finland and Estonia this summer, the BaltHerNet summer school program on the topic of the cultural heritage of Estonians abroad was tied to ESTO events happening in Tartu and Tallinn. The main topics were the arts – we discussed culture and art history collections. At the request of many Estonians from abroad, the first day of the summer school also focused on family history research. The summer school was supported by the Compatriots Program. We are thankful to our partners at the National Archives of Estonia, the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum, the Adamson-Eric Museum, Estonian National Museum (ENM), and the Estonian Literary Museum for their help with coordinating the summer school.
On June 30 everyone gathered in Tartu at the new National Archives of Estonia building Noora for the seminar “Searching for Your Roots.” The National Archives of Estonia Head of Communications and Foreign Affairs, Birgit Kibal, introduced the necessary archival resources, databases, and methods for conducting family history research in English, and the Head of Access and Enquiry Department in Tartu, Tõnis Türna, did so in Estonian. Seasoned summer school participants, as well as new participants from among the ESTOs, joined the group. The day ended with a tour of Noora and the opening of the new collaborative exhibit by the ENM and VEMU about the history of ESTO Festivals at the Estonian National Museum in Raadi.
On the morning of July 1, the Vanemuine lower parking lot was crowded – the ESTO participants were ready to go to the capital. We too, sat on a bus with our group in the direction of Tallinn to continue our summer school there. We spent a content-rich afternoon at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum with a tour of the collections and talks on exhibits and research projects by the Chief Treasurer, Ann Aaresild, Scholar and Curator, Kaisa Luik, and Curators, Annely Kaldoja and Kristo Matson. Maie Barrow from the Estonian Archives in Australia and Piret Noorhani from VEMU spoke about music and theatre history collections abroad. The NGO Annual Meeting was also held, where reports of the last year were done, the new auditing committee was elected, and it was decided to host the next 2020 summer school in Hiiumaa. For those interested, the evening was spent at Telliskivi Creative City at the Kärbes bar, where ESTOs were celebrating Canada Day.
Everyone gathered at the Adamson-Eric Museum on the morning of July 2, where the Curator/Collections Manager, Kersti Koll, discussed collecting art made by Estonians abroad as well as current research and exhibit projects. Ave-Marie Blithe from Lakewood, Maie Barrow from Sydney, and Piret Noorhani from Toronto gave overviews about the art collections in communities of Estonians abroad and their related issues.
After lunch, we all went back on the bus to Laulasmaa to visit the Arvo Pärt Centre that opened last fall. The VEMU archives have a video of a lecture Arvo Pärt gave at Tartu College in December 1981, a short time after he left Estonia, introducing his creative method. This rare recording was a very appropriate gift to the centre. Archivist Anneli Kivisiv led the tour of the Pärt Centre praising both the Spanish architects and the Estonian builders, as she gave an overview of the exciting Arvo Pärt legacy. Although we had been told that the composer would not be at the centre, we were unexpectedly lucky that Pärt made a surprise appearance. The more bold and quick in our group even got their photos taken with the living classic! It’s great to know that this special person has his own exceptional and stately place, which I recommend to all those who haven’t visited it yet – it is both refreshing for the soul and visually enjoyable.
When the bus brought all the summer school participants back to Tallinn to the Baltic Railway Station, everyone must have felt that this time school was unfairly short. But a year flies by quickly and hopefully, we will have more time in Hiiumaa to talk shop and renew friendships. For now, I wish everyone who takes care of the heritage of Estonians abroad strength and endurance!