Archives, libraries, museums – national memory of Estonia

Estonian archives, libraries and museums constitute a national memory endeavouring to preserve everything that is of relevance from the point of view of the past, the present and the future. Our archives, libraries and museums are not only of national importance, they are a part of the memory of the entire world.

Estonian archives, museums and libraries also contain a certain amount of information on many other countries and nations. Similarly, a lot of valuable data concerning Estonians and Estonia can be found in the archives, museums and libraries of other countries, especially those of our neighbours. Most of these records have ended up or been purposefully stored in other countries in the natural course of history but a certain amount of cultural property has been removed from Estonia during wars and occupations (especially in the 20th century) and is being kept outside Estonia illegally.

If we try to define the difference between these three establishments, we can, very broadly speaking, say that archives govern the collection, storage and exploitation of archive documents (also known as ‘records’), libraries deal with printed matter (mostly books), and museums with various kinds of objects.

The history of human culture in Estonia dates back to the Mesolithic period, i.e. to the Stone Age more than 10 000 years ago. Prehistoric archaeological findings from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages (e.g. tools, jewellery, weapons, coins, household effects, etc.) are preserved and exhibited in the archaeological collections of the Institute of History, the Chamber of Archaeology of the University of Tartu, the Estonian History Museum, and in numerous local museums all over Estonia.

According to their specialities, museums maintain and exhibit artefacts dating from the most ancient periods to modern times. Objects stored in museums were usually created with a certain practical and/or aesthetic purpose in mind. Archives and libraries, on the other hand, deal with the written word. Unlike other artefacts, written material is created to preserve information and to pass it through both time and space.

Details about this article