From October 3-4, 2011, students and researchers of Baltic studies gathered in Kaunas Lithuania to share their research methods and some of the problems they encounter. The seminar took plaRe at the Lithuanian Emigration Institute, and was graciously hosted by Linas Saldukas. Participants came from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Piret Noorhani who talked about the importance of Baltic research and its place in emigration studies opened the seminar. She discussed the evolution of the Baltic Heritage Network conferences and seminars and was pleased to see young researchers representing each state. Linas Saldukas followed by discussing the change of the meaning of emigration, saying that people who emigrate now, have the option to return, not like during the Soviet times. But a large portion of the Latvian and Lithuanian populations left in 1990s and it is unclear if they will return.
Alma Masevičienė and Jolita Steponaitienė, talked about methods and prospects of acquiring material on the archival heritage of emigration in the National Library of Lithuania. They stressed that not all collections are large, but that does not change their validity. Ina Vaisiunaite then discussed new ways to look at Baltic emigration history by examining various visual sources. She talked about the process of sorting and interpreting various visual images in Lithuanian television production.
Kristine Bekere spoke about challenges in diaspora research projects. The main challenge for Bekere was the lack of resources to properly organise materials. She said that there was certainly no lack of materials, but the difficulty was in knowing where to look.
Maarja Merivoo-Parro discussed her research on the New York Estonian Educational Society and Refugees. This was an enlightening exploration into the social dynamics of emigrant communities. Jane Kalajärv continued on the theme of Estonian emigrants and spoke about cultural identity and the home interior of Estonians in Toronto.
Kristina Lupp discussed her use of various sources for her studies of Estonian food culture during the Soviet period in her presentation called limitations in Estonian food studies. Lea Kreinin, visiting from Scotland spoke of the Estonian diaspora in Scotland. Inese Kalnina introduced the archival material of the Latvian diaspora.
The discussion that followed raised many interesting questions regarding the identity of the Baltic people within the Baltic States as well as abroad.
Linas Saldukas was an excellent host and brought the participants to some wonderful restaurants in Kaunas that featured traditional Lithuanian foods. The topic of national cuisine in the Baltic States came up at every meal.
The seminar concluded on October 4 with a tour of the Lithuanian Emigration Institute, led by Linas Saldukas. He explained the buildings’ various tenants and of the on-going renovations. A tour of the library brought to life the hard work that many of the archivists had done in organising materials.