New Estonian National Museum

September 1, 2016

This October will mark an important historical event; the new building for the Estonian National Museum will be opened in Tartu, Estonia. This moment has taken 107 years to arrive. Until now the museum has been housed in a number of temporary locations. Although there have been many architecture competitions, this is the only time any of the projects have reached completion and become a building. The last competition was held in 2006 and the winning project was Memory Field by the Dorell Ghotmeh Tane Architects firm in Paris.

Construction began in 2013. The building has 6200 m2 of exhibition space and 8100 m2 of storage space. Two new permanent exhibitions will be opened: an Estonian permanent exhibit titled Kõnelused (Talks), and a Finno-Ugric cultural exhibit titled Uurali kaja (The Echo of the Ural). In addition, there are a number of smaller exhibits, such as the Talu elu ja talu ilu (Farm Life and Beauty), Inimene ja keskkond (The Person and the Environment), Regilaul (Regi Songs), Aja jälg vaibal (The Imprint of Time on a Carpet), Korralik toit (Proper Food), etc. For the first time in history, the first Estonian flag, which belongs to the Estonian Student Society, will be put on permanent display in the Rahvas ja riik (The People and Nation) exhibit.

The Estonian diaspora are also included in the new exhibits. For example, in the exhibit focused on the Soviet period in the section titled Raudne eesriie (The Iron Curtain), a theme about both forced and voluntary migration has been included. One display is dedicated to those who fled in 1944 (the two other displays discuss deportations and immigration to Estonia). In addition, a touch screen will be available for looking at photos, documents, and letters about the life of a 13 year old boy in 1944. The material covers 1944, when the boy fled from Estonia with his parents until the fall of 1989 when he took his first trip back to Estonia.

One of the largest themed exhibitions is titled Paralleelilmad (Parallel Worlds), which discusses the everyday and extraordinary moments in the lives of Estonian people from the years 1939-1989. Among the represented people are Estonians who were born and raised in Estonia, left or taken from Estonia, and those who have come and remained in Estonia. The exhibit uses life history episodes as “windows” through which one can see into the period in history when there was major opposition in the world – The Cold War. These episodes show the impact of these significant historical events on peoples’ lives, but also that there was a lot to be happy and sad about in everyday life, regardless of politics and the government. Similarly, there are a number of main characters, who have spent most of their lives abroad, away from Estonia featured in the exhibit.

Beginning October 1st, we welcome all who are interested in Estonian and Finno-Ugric cultures to Tartu to visit our new, modern, and exciting Estonian National Museum.

Riina Reinvalt