Continuous Work of Estonian Archivists in Minneapolis

November 5, 2016

After a year long interval, in 2016 the National Archives of Estonia continued their collaborative work with the Immigration History Research Center Archives (IHRCA) at the University of Minnesota in the USA. This time Külli Niidassoo and Pille Aguraiuja conducted the work of description and organization in September and October. A large portion of the various organizations’ and personal archives from the Estonian Archives in the US (EAU) in Lakewood, New Jersey have been deposited at the IHRCA and are in need of more detailed English descriptions to make the materials more accessible. The project was funded by the National Archives of Estonia and the Compatriot Programme, in addition to the support from the University of Minnesota.

This year’s plan was to describe the personal archives. Over the course of four weeks, 13 personal archives (about 18 metres of shelf space) were described and organized. All described archives were organized and placed in new archive boxes. All folders and covers unsuited for preservation were replaced with archive standard covers. Staples and other damaging paper fasteners were removed. Slides, photos and other items found among the documents were placed into appropriate preservation containers. Most of the archival material had already been sorted in Lakewood, which accelerated the description process. For example, Heino Taremäe’s archive had already been systematized by the donor; this archive’s original system of organization was kept in place and so were the systems of other archives that similarly had been previously sorted. Larger archives were organized into series’ of folders, separating personal documents from various organizations’ documents and other printed material, including newspaper clippings, which are quite often found in personal archives.

The largest archives were Heino Taremäe’s (mentioned above, four metres of shelf space) and Herbert Michelson’s (5 metres of shelf space) personal archives. Michelson’s collection mainly included documents – correspondence, newsletters, bulletins, instructions etc. – documents recording the activities – the handbooks “Skautlikul teel,” “Noorsootöö radadel,” “Uisutamine” – and documents associated with the organization of Raamatu Aasta (Year of the Book) and the questionnaire on youth Estonian language skills. In the previous Chair of the Estonian Archives in the US, Taremäe’s archive there was official correspondence, minutes and financial documents. In addition, documents from the Tallinn Science School Alumni Association, where Taremäe was a member, and a wide range of personal correspondence with different individuals and organizations.

Smaller archives, such as August Sandluki’s, August Pensa’s and Leo Keerberg’s collections mainly included documents associated with various organizations, societies and unions to which these individuals belonged. Sandluki’s archive differed from the others, as the documents were from an earlier time period (1920-1930s). Keerberg’s archive will definitely be of interest to researchers, since it included correspondence with American presidents, Congress members and other State authorities beginning in the early 1960s through to the end of the 1990s. Villi Kangro’s archive consisted of mainly documents from the Estonian Cultural Fund, while in Jüri Mandre’s archive there were documents and correspondence from the music fund named after Mandre, which had been founded after his death. Mandre’s musical compositions for plays and choir music made up a large part of his archive. One of the more interesting collections was the archive of actress Salme Lott Neumann, where in addition to manuscripts for plays, there was a large number of photos from 1942-1972 (both personal as well as photos of plays and other actors). Linda Ormesson’s personal archive was also memorable, as it included different drawings and patterns for embroidery, cross-stitching, and sewing in addition to some original pieces of art. A partially complete piece of embroidery with the needles and yarn was also found in a box.

However, not all of the archives caused positive reactions. Uno Teemant’s archive was a disappointment. It consisted of mainly photocopied documents of articles in Estonian and other languages, magazines, and books on historical, military and literary topics. Most likely important research material for Teemant himself, but not very exciting for archivists. In addition to the previously mentioned personal archives, there were also Endrik Tamm’s, Evald and Hildegard Rink’s, and August Meikup’s archives. The oldest document from the organized archives was found in Meikup’s archive – a school report card from 1906. Overall, the described archival material could be dated from 1940-1980, but also from the period when the individuals fled to Germany and then from there to America. Although the personal archives mainly consist of documents from organizations and societies (correspondence, minutes, newsletters, publications) and other printed material, the archives provide a good overview of Estonian activities and the rich social life they participated in as both refugees in German DP camps as well as naturalized citizens of America.

The descriptions of the personal archives and the lists of files can be viewed on the new University of Minnesota Library and Archives website:

Pille Aguraiuja & Külli Niidassoo