MY TARTU – Collection Campaign to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Tartu College

December 18, 2019

In September 2020, Tartu College will celebrate its 50th birthday. Throughout these long years, this building has been home to many Toronto university students as a residence, as well as a home to Estonians, non-Estonians, and guests from near and far. Tartu has been an intellectual home for the academic Estonians of Toronto, where hundreds of meetings and other parties have been held. Tens of cultural organizations and hundreds of volunteers have come together in the rooms of Tartu. Here, songs have been sung and dances held, exhibits organized, films and theatre performances viewed, and music enjoyed. Tartu is home to the largest Estonian archives and library collections outside of Estonia, which were established as the initiative of the Tartu Institute and Dr Endel Aruja. Now, these collections continue to be developed as VEMU, the Museum of Estonians Abroad. Tartu College is also home to the newspaper Eesti Elu.

For many, Tartu is a very personal place – weddings, confirmations and birthdays have been held here, and final goodbyes to community members have been said. At Tartu, the Greeks of Master´s Buffeteria and the hard-working Portuguese housekeeping staff have continuously bustled around with Estonians. Tartu has been a workplace for many Estonians, but also to those who only learned about Estonia and Estonians once they started collecting knowledge through their work. Visitors from Estonia and all over the world have been to Tartu. For many, Tartu reminded them of home, for others, it has been an opportunity to learn about Canadian Estonians, Estonia, and Estonians overall.
Every one of us has our own Tartu story or sometimes many, as relationships with Tartu College may have changed at different stages of life. What is your Tartu? Share your memories of Tartu College with us in writing, or by audio or video recording. Send us photos, films, and meaningful items, which help illustrate your story. If you wish for us to interview you, please let us know.

A selection of information and material that we collect from the campaign will be used for the Tartu College 50th birthday exhibit, which will be opened at Tartu College in September 2020. Prizes will be awarded for the best contributions!

The following questions are meant to support your memories. There is no obligation to answer all the questions – they are only meant to spark your memory for what is important to you.

-What was your first encounter with Tartu College?
-Do you remember what the corner of Bloor St. and Madison Ave. looked like before TC was built? Describe the area and/or share photos.
-Do you remember the construction of TC? Do you or does anyone in your family have any personal connections to it? What connections? Describe and/ or share photos.
-Did you participate in the TC opening party? Describe.
-Have you ever lived at TC? When? Why? Who were your neighbours, friends? How many of the residents knew the story of TC, that it is Estonian owned, and that there is a city in Estonia with the same name? Describe your everyday life and that of the other residents. Did TC residents have unique behaviours or traditions? Where did you party when you lived at TC, where did you go with friends? Did you participate in the work of organizations located in the building and attend the events? Describe them. Where did you eat when you lived at TC? Bring to mind fun moments when living at TC.
-Have you ever worked at TC? What was your role? When? In which part of the building? What path led you to work at TC? Why did you leave? Describe your work. Who were your co-workers? How many of them were Estonian, how many had other backgrounds and where were they from? Describe everyday business at TC. Bring to mind colourful and vivid moments during your work life at TC, with colleagues, clients, etc.
-Have you and what kind of relationship have you had with Master’s Buffeteria? If you have dined there, during what stages of life and why? Who was working in the restaurant at that time? Describe and remember interesting stories and people. What do you think of the restaurant’s menu? Has it changed over the years? Has the layout and design of the restaurant changed over time? Who were the other restaurant guests? Has the type of guest changed over time? Have you used any other of Master’s Buffeteria’s services (catering, party preparation)?
-Have you ever been a volunteer at TC? When? For what organizations? What did/does this organization do? What were/are your responsibilities? Have you ever received recognition for your volunteer work at Tartu College? What kind of recognition? Remember any exciting instances during your volunteer activities at TC.
-Have you ever organized events at TC? When? What kinds? With whom? Describe.
-Have you attended academic and cultural events at TC? When? When were you an especially active participant? Which events? Which events have you enjoyed the most and have been the most interesting?
-Have you ever lived at TC as a short-term guest? When? Why? Describe your stay and contact with the local Estonian community.
-Have you ever visited the archives and library collections at TC as a reader or researcher? When? What was your goal? Who did you meet during your visit? Describe your time at TC.
-Have you ever visited TC as a tourist? When? In association with what? Who did you meet? Describe your visit and impressions.
-Are you and how are you/ have you been associated with the Chair of Estonian Studies and/or its establishment at the University of Toronto? -Have you ever participated in courses as a university student at the Chair of Estonian Studies? When? Which courses? Who are/were your instructors?
-Tartu College and the Toronto Estonian House. What role has one or the other played in your life? How would you compare them? What makes one or the other special?
-What has been the importance and meaning of TC for Canadians and especially Toronto Estonians? And for Estonians in Estonia? How well-known is Tartu College in Estonia?
-What has been the importance and meaning of TC for Toronto and Canada? How well-known is TC among non-Estonians as an Estonian company, a cultural centre, and repository for historical collections?

Please send your memories, photos, archival material, artefacts, and other items that preserve the history of Tartu College by email to, or by mail to Estonian Studies Centre/ VEMU, 310 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON, M5S 1W4 by March 31, 2020.
Info: Piret Noorhani, t. 416 925 9405,