Archival Training in London. The First Chapter of a Journey Into the Past

December 4, 2012

On September 29-30, 2012, the hall at the London Estonian House was filled with many new, and older, cultural heritage enthusiasts.

The first archival training course for British Estonians was organised by the London Estonian Association’s Historical Committee and archival specialists from the Baltic Heritage Network. The invited archivists from Estonia and Canada shared knowledge: Tiiu Kravtsev (National Archives), Merike Kiipus (Estonian Literature Museum), Anne Valmas (Tallinn University Academic Library), Riina Reinvelt and Karin Kiisk (Estonian National Museum), as well as Piret Noorhani (VEMU or the Museum of Estonian Abroad).The National Fellow Program funded the archival training course.

Aino Lepik von Wirén, who has sat on the board of directors for the Swedish National Archives Baltic Division for many years now, opened the event.

The first day of the training course was theoretical, where the maintenance and collection of the archives of Estonians abroad was discussed. On Sunday however, there was an opportunity to try working with archival materials to gain practical experience. The Estonian community had brought along many interesting things, including old photographs, books, letters, and other objects. For example, there was a book of minutes from the London Estonian Association from 1920, photo albums of various Estonian functions, as well as beautiful handicrafts. How and what to collect, as well as, how to preserve culture to be passed onto following generations, was discussed. Every one of us is a piece of Estonian culture and history; together we make a large and diverse mosaic, of which each piece plays an important roll. Seemingly insignificant things can have priceless value. Old letters, photographs, and documents tell the tale of how we once lived. Every one of us has some kind of personal archive (old letters, boxes of photographs, printed materials, and more) however, upon having to move, many of these things are deemed unnecessary and are subsequently discarded. With that in mind, think about your personal archive, and where it could be preserved. You can ask for help and advice from the archival experts at the Baltic Heritage Network.

Compiling archival documents can also have practical value; for example, the London Estonian Association’s Historical Committee is collecting materials for an exhibit in honour of the 95th anniversary celebrations for the Estonian Republic. They are looking for old photographs from past ceremonies, old programmes, as well as other celebration-themed materials like handicrafts, badges, souvenirs, and so on (of which they will return to their owners after the exhibit). The Historical Committee is also interested in old memoires, which could be recorded for future generations, either in the form of an audio or video recorded interview. They are hoping to collect even more priceless memories in the future. Canada sets a good example, where the Estonians living there, have already collected many volumes of life stories and memoires, as well as started a volunteer life story collecting club. This kind of club could be useful in Great Britain, as well as in other large Estonian communities abroad.

According to the London Estonian Association’s Historical Committee, this archival day was the first step in the systematic collection of archival materials for Estonians abroad in Great Britain, and all the participants agreed. If you would like more information, or would like to join in this work, please contact the London Estonian Association’s historical committee or write to

Lea Kreinin
Browse photos of this event.