The Collections from The Estonian Central Archives in Canada Are Arriving at VEMU

August 16, 2021

Although summer at the Museum of Estonians Abroad (VEMU) has been quieter than usual in regard to cultural events, intense work has continued despite the heat. This summer’s biggest undertaking has been the packing and moving of the collections from the Estonian Central Archives in Canada (EKK) located in the Toronto Estonian House to VEMU.

In 1961, the Estonian Cultural Archives in Canada was established alongside the existing Rahvusliku Välisvõitluse Nõukogu (RVN) and was led by the initiator Karl Eerme.

The so-called “idea seed” for the archives was the material from the book exhibit organized for the 1960 Estonian National Congress in Canada. The exhibit included books donated by authors and publishers such as the Estonian Writers Cooperative, Orto, and Estoprint. In 1964, the archives were given their own room in the Estonian House. In 1968, the archives were renamed to the Estonian Central Archives in Canada. The archives have also been led by Richard Antik, Enn Salurand, and Martin Ahermaa. EKK’s last leader was the passionate history enthusiast Paavo Loosberg.

The Estonian Central Council, which was in charge of curating EKK, decided a few years ago to donate the EKK collections to VEMU. The necessary preparations began three years ago. In spring 2018, Tiiu Kravtsev and Sven Lepa from the National Archives of Estonia worked with the EKK collections describing the document archives. Their stay in Canada was supported by the Compatriots Program, the National Archives of Estonia, and VEMU. In 2019, VEMU employees compared EKK books to VEMU’s book collection to sort out which publications published outside of Estonia VEMU already had. At the end of that year, the duplicates were sent to the Estonian Repository Library in Tallinn, where other Estonian libraries may select books for their collections.

In relation to the sale of the historic Toronto Estonian House located on Broadview Avenue, the time came to begin emptying the rooms in the building. We began packing EKK’s collections in July 2021. One of the Estonian school classrooms was filled with piles of boxes. Today, the documents archives, photo collections, microfilms, and most of the library collection has arrived in VEMU’s current home at Tartu College. By the end of September, the remaining books, artifacts, film and audio collections will be moved – a total of over 500 boxes containing the history of Estonians.

Many people have assisted in moving the collections to VEMU, including the Estonian House board member and manager Ingrid Laar, Estonian Central Council chairwoman Kairi Hemingway, and young Estonian volunteers Mark Spokowski, Amelia Herrmann, and Victoria Hutchings. We are deeply grateful to them as well as to the employees of VEMU and Tartu College, Kerly Ilves, Rasmus Rattas, Taavi Tamtik, and Linda Karuks who assisted in moving the EKK collections.

Piret Noorhani