Summer School in the Forest

July 20, 2013

BaltHerNet organised a highly successful information session from 7-10 July 2013, on Estonian databases and correspondence, all primarily focused on the expatriate Estonian community. It was a gathering with representatives from Estonia’s major memory institutions present for four days at Alutaguse, a well-known small, yet comfortable resort located in the north-east part of the country, near the town of Jõhvi. Also represented at this gathering were leaders from Estonian heritage organisations in eight other countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and USA, totalling 42 diverse participants. All presentations and ensuing discussions were in Estonian.

Senior researchers and managers from the Estonian National Library, National Archives, National Museum, Literary Museum, and the Universities of Tartu and Tallinn introduced detailed aspects of their respective databases pertaining to, or of major interest to, expatriate Estonians. One is based in the United States of America (the database of the Immigration History Research Centre in Minneapolis, MN); the remainder are based in Estonia. All are constantly being updated. Of future interest to BaltHerNet members is a particular database, under development at the National Archives, not yet publicly available. It will be a central place where Estonian archival collections abroad will be able to house their databases.

BaltHerNet has the pertinent links at Click on “Memory Institutions,” next choose either “Estonia” or other countries from the column on the left and follow the links to the various databases.

The third day of the event was dedicated to letters – the handwritten communications of ordinary people and of culturally prominent individuals prior to the Internet age. We heard examples of correspondence between Estonians located in various parts of the world.

The sum of many collections of such correspondences becomes a valuable source of historical, and sometimes, biographical information. The Estonian National Museum is actively requesting donations of original correspondence between Estonians in Estonia and abroad. For further information, contact: Riina Reinvelt at Tel: +372-735-0406 or Email: Donations of such correspondence may also be made to or via various local Estonian archives or organisations throughout the world.

For relaxation, the Alutaguse gathering had the privilege of watching Ilmar Raag’s full length feature film “An Estonian in Paris” with the director present to provide background information. There was an evening of singing and a day dedicated to tours of the Kuremäe Convent, Narva College (a new branch of Tartu University) and the Narva Museum.

For some participants of the 2013 BaltHerNet summer school, this was their first inside glimpse at online resources of this type. Others added to their previous knowledge. Post session discussions revealed that everyone benefited from hearing about the many databases. Even those, whose careers pertain to developing and maintaining these resources, were pleased to learn details about other databases and how their collection policies intertwine. All the database providers are looking forward to increased use of their online resources and encourage members of the public as well as researchers to log in.

Helgi Leesment