In relation to the ESTO festival and the song festival taking place in Estonia in summer 2019, as well as the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape in the fall, the Festival of Exhibits by/of Estonians Abroad will begin in May and last to the end of the year throughout Estonia. Exhibits by communities of Estonians abroad, Estonian memory institutions or exhibits created as collaborations on topics related to Estonians abroad will be displayed during the festival. The first exhibit “Two Edges of a Lifespan” arrived from Canada in Estonia from the Museum of Estonians Abroad and will be opened on May 29th at the Estonian Literary Museum.
Over the last few years, Estonian memory institutions located both at home and abroad have created a significant number of exhibits on the various stages and aspects of the Estonian diaspora. Some of them have been displayed before, but a large portion will be seen by Estonian audiences for the first time. There are 16 different exhibits from Estonia, Canada, Australia, and Sweden on the program that will be on display throughout the summer as part of the festival. During the first round they will be on display at 13 different memory institutions in a total of six cities: Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Rakvere, Valga and Võru. Topics such as stories of fleeing, life in DP camps, as well as the various activities, hobbies, and accomplishments of Estonians abroad are addressed. In addition to the refugees of World War Two and their descendants, the exhibits also discuss earlier emigrations of Estonians to Canada and Siberia. Aside from historical exhibits, there are photo exhibits and expositions that have grown out of oral history projects or from the handicraft hobbies of Estonian women. One exhibit tells the story of how all Baltic people, including Baltic Germans, fled and built new homes in Canada. A few brand new exhibits will also be opened during the festival: the Estonian National Museum (ERM) and Museum of Estonians Abroad (VEMU) collaborative exhibit “ESTO – the Keeper of Global Estonianness” and at the Estonian Sports and Olympics Museum “Estonian Sport in Canada.”
Festival opening exhibition “Two Edges of a Lifespan” was created in Toronto at VEMU in 2018 to celebrate the Republic of Estonia’s centennial. Toomas Volkmann (Estonia) and Kristen Dobbin’s (Canada) photos depict the oldest and youngest members of the Canadian Estonian community. Volkmann’s photos show those who were born at the same time as the Republic of Estonia. The accompanying texts describe their long and dramatic life paths along with some life wisdom. The young Canadian Estonian photographer Dobbin, used her camera to preserve the Jõekääru children’s summer camp in Ontario during the summer of 2017. The camp, that remained out of reach for Dobbin as a child since she couldn’t speak Estonian, now accepts anyone who wants to improve their Estonianness. Dobbin’s photos give a good impression of everyday life and days of celebration for young Estonians abroad at this camp with a long and valuable history.
At the beginning of the fall, the exhibits will go on a second round, meaning that they will change location, so that as many people see them as possible.
The festival is organized by the NGO Baltic Heritage Network that focuses on the heritage of Estonians and other Baltic people abroad and VEMU in Toronto in collaboration with a number of memory institutions in Estonia and communities of Estonians abroad. The project is supported by the Ministry of Education and Research in Estonia / the Compatriots Program and the Estonian Studies Centre/VEMU.
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