A shining pearl with a whole universe to discover inside.
Come by horse or by train, by foot or plane - in any case, you can’t leave Tartu without visiting the Estonian National Museum. It took 107 years for the museum to find its home, but the result was worth the wait. This majestic architectural landmark has triggered the development of a whole new area of Tartu, within walking distance from the city centre. Parisian architects have managed to bring together the multi-layered history of the area into a whole, and have also made it possible to build Estonia’s largest and most technologically modern permanent exhibition, while making it educational and fun at the same time.
The football field-sized building has two permanent exhibitions, as well as many larger and smaller temporary exhibitions. The permanent Estonian cultural exhibition ‘Encounters’ follows the everyday lives of ordinary people over 11,000 years, who have lived on this land. Every story provides insight into why Estonians are now the way they are. There is a lot which is familiar because every culture borrows from its closest and furthest neighbours, as well as the specific nature that has dictated the development of a unique environment and unique historical identity of each nation.
The unique permanent exhibition ‘Echo of the Urals’ is dedicated to the indigenous Finno-Ugric peoples without their own statehood and who inhabit an immense swath of land from Scandinavia in the northern part of Eurasia and the Baltic Sea to the Taymyr Peninsula and Yenisei River in Siberia. The Finno-Ugric are settled down to – in some areas – the Danube and the Volga River, in the south. The central idea of the exhibition is inspired by the differences in daily activities, rituals and traditional art of Finno-Ugric women and men.
You can admire the largest exhibition of Estonian traditional folk costumes, where 150 seasonal and formal ensembles from different parishes across Estonia are on display. The non-nomadic lifestyle of peasants has brought out regional differences in costumes, which are juxtaposed with completeness and richness that isn’t even seen at song festivals.
Of the thousands of items on display in the exhibitions, some have independent significance. The most unique and most important to Estonians is the first blue-black-white tricolour flag made by the Students’ Society in 1884, which is 34 years older than the Republic of Estonia, and thanks to good luck and individual courage, has survived the misfortunes of the 20th Century.
Modern Estonian passion for quickly implementing new e-solutions has also found a place in the museum. With the swipe of a smartcard, you can customise your experience with different text in different languages (currently in Estonian, English, Russian, and Finnish), which facilitates a deeper understanding of the exhibitions without the help of a guide or translator. Playful and accessible interactivity for all members of the family is the standard for all exhibitions.
The Estonian National Museum is built on a diverse educational and cultural foundation. This means that there are concerts, film screenings, theatre performances and other cultural events taking place in the museum every day. Nearly 40 hectares of outdoor space are still undeveloped, but in summer you can enjoy some cultural free time there. Inside, enjoy a restaurant and café that have skillfully blended traditional and modern flavours. The only thing missing is enough time to see everything in the museum. The average visitor spends four or more hours at the Estonian National Museum and usually says they need to come back again as they are leaving, because there is so much more to see and read in this ubiquitous Estonian space.
Please visit museum's listing for details and extra information.