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Authors:Kristin Kuutma:
Publication title:National Museums in Estonia
Conference:Building National Museums in Europe 1750–2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus, European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1
Publication type: Abstract and Fulltext
Issue:064
Article No.:012
Abstract:In order to describe the rationale and practice of establishing national museums in Estonia, our research group chose four major institutions: the Estonian History Museum, the Estonian National Museum, the Art Museum of Estonia, and the Estonian Open Air Museum. These museums are not listed here with the intention of presenting a hierarchy, either past or present, but rather of following a chronological sequence. On the other hand, the initiatives and processes that led to their founding appear inherently related, if not more than institutionally: the National Museum was originally conceived as a counterpart to the History Museum in order to defy the prevalent ethnic representations; the founding of the Art Museum was initiated inside the National Museum institution, to defy geographic placement; the Open Air Museum was conceived and initiated by the staff of the National Museum. In general, the history of museums in Estonia can be characterised by various oppositions, based on ethnicity, locus, or political agenda. In the nineteenth century, the earliest museum initiatives were related to territorial divisions and aspirations for national identities under the rule of the Russian Empire first by the Baltic Germans, whose example was followed later by ethnic Estonians. The national ideas that circulated among the Estonian intellectuals interpreted (peasant) folk culture as the historical legacy of the Estonian nation. Folk heritage was seen as a substitute for genuine Estonian high culture. To this overall frame of national discourse was related a claim concerning salvage ethnography – to preserve valuable representations of the past. Therefore the major endeavours in the early twentieth century were defined by ethnographic interests, which may explain the eventual nature of the current major museum institution that is called the Estonian National Museum. National arguments have been supported by ethnographic arguments both in professional and public narratives through different times and political regimes.

In the following article, the ‘Introduction’ gives a synopsis of the political history of Estonia, followed by an outline of the development of the museum system in the contemporary sociopolitical context. The four case studies stand in chronological order and each of them is provided with a summarising annotation. The historical and political developments of Estonia are most prominently addressed in the presentation of the Estonian History Museum. The other museum cases should be read against this backdrop to a certain extent. Due to changing political powers, all four museums have been renamed several times along with changing actors. Though missing in the summary table, those details are provided in the Annex table at the very end of the article.

Research for this report was carried out with the assistance of Ergo-Hart Västrik, Pille Runnel, Marleen Nõmmela, and Art Leete.

Language:English
Year:2011
No. of pages:29
Pages:231-259
Series:Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):1650-3686
ISSN (online):1650-3740
File:http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/064/012/ecp64012.pdf
Available:2011-09-30
Publisher:Linköping University Electronic Press, Linköpings universitet

REFERENCE TO THIS PAGE
Kristin Kuutma (2011). National Museums in Estonia, Building National Museums in Europe 1750–2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus, European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1 http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp_article/index.en.aspx?issue=064;article=012 (accessed 8/30/2014)