The Archival Library (AL) was founded on April 14, 1909, as the central research library of the Estonian National Museum. At present, it belongs to Estonian Literary Museum. AL also encompasses the Bibliography Department (founded on November 21, 1921).
AL is the only research library in Estonia that has been created specially for the aim of collecting, preserving, and making available for researchers the publications (i.e., all printed documents) in Estonian and those concerning Estonia in foreign languages. Its aim is to obtain the most complete collection possible to be preserved as national heritage according to the requirements of UNESCO and IFLA. According to the decree of the Government of Estonian Republic, AL has been given the rights to act as State Archival Library in 2007.
AL collects all publications in Estonian and in other languages that have been issued in Estonia, also publications issued elsewhere concerning the cultural history of the Baltic region and Finno-Ugric peoples and Estonian exile literature – books, periodicals, maps, music scores, pamphlets, etc. Special attention is paid to the preservation of the translations of Estonian literature into other languages, literature associated with the Baltic countries, literary heritage of Estonian writers, scientists, scientific associations and societies. According to the report of Project Thule (2000), the collections of AL are the most complete ones in Estonia.
Completion system of AL is based on compulsory copies, purchase, exchange, donations.
A collection of books in the Estonian language (the oldest items dating from 1632; ca 560,000 items) includes 98 per cent of all books and booklets known. The Archival Library’s collection of the oldest publications in Estonian language is the most complete one among the analogous collections in the world.
The Baltic collection (the oldest items dating from 1543; ca 166,000 items) comprises older publications (books, periodicals) in foreign languages and publications that have been issued outside Estonia, that concern Estonia and other Finno-Ugric peoples and translations of Estonian authors into other languages, or the Baltic states.
The ‘new Baltic collection’ comprises foreign language publications issued in Estonia since 1945.
The periodical collection (the oldest items dating from 1766; ca 73,000 annual volumes) consists of two parts: periodicals in Estonian (comprising more than 90 per cent of all periodicals published in Estonia), and periodicals in other languages (among them are periodicals published in Estonia, Finland, Riga and St. Petersburg).
32 memorial collections include personal libraries of 32 authors and other culturally significant persons. The collections are preserved intact according to the wishes of their donators – ca 80,000 items.
The collections of the Estonian Learned Society (books, periodicals, maps etc) – ca 32,000 items.
The pamphlet collection contains pamphlets, leaflets and advertisement, materials published by societies, organisations and educational institutions, theatre programmes, posters, placards, postcards, calendars etc. – ca 120,000 items
Map collection (atlases, maps and plans of towns of Estonia and other Baltic countries have been the main collection objects) – ca 7,000 items.
The collection of exile Estonian publications was initiated in the late 1950s. The first publications were exchanged with the authors themselves or their publishers (Bernhard Kangro, Arvo Mägi, Andrus Saareste, Herbert Salu, Alev Uibopuu, et al). Later the collection has mainly increased due to the donations from institutions/organizations (Estonian Archives in Australia, Baltic Archives, Estonian Writers’ Cooperative, Corporation of Estonian Culture in Sweden, Swedish Representation of Estonians, Toronto Tartu Institute) and private persons.
Some collections are preserved separately as memorial collections: the libraries of Johannes Aavik (1866 units), Richard Antik (657 units), Viktor Kõressaar (845 units), Ilmar Laaban (4442 units), Oskar Loorits (431 units), and Harald Viirsalu (804 units).
The exile collection is not exhaustive as it misses books, periodicals and small prints. All books in Estonian (ca 3000 titles) and periodicals (ca 260) are listed in the electronic catalogue ESTER. The electronic catalogue does not yet contain all books in foreign languages and the publications of the memorial collections.
Estonian Literary Museum
51003 Tartu, Estonia