Archives, libraries and museums in contemporary Estonia

The work of Estonian archives is based on the Archives Act adopted by the Riigikogu in 1998. In 1999, the National Archives were established under the jurisdiction of the State Chancellery with the task of collecting and preserving records reflecting Estonian history, culture, state and social conditions, regardless of the time or place of creation of such records or the data medium. The National Archives are directed by the State Archivist who is appointed for a period of five years by the Government of the Republic. The National Archives are comprised of the Historical Archives, the State Archives, the Film Archives and the County Archives of Harju, Lääne, Lääne-Viru, Saare, Tartu and Valga counties.

The Historical Archives mainly deal with storing pre-independence era records originating in the period between the 13th and the 20th centuries. The State Archives house documents issued since Estonia became independent. The Film Archives contain audio-visual records: photos, films and sound recordings. County Archives preserve documents of local importance issued since the 1940s.

In addition to the above-mentioned archives belonging to the national archives system, there are also town archives working under the jurisdiction of local governments. Records relating to Tallinn and dating from the 13th century to modern times are preserved in the Tallinn City Archives. The Narva City archives hold documents issued since the 1940s. Estonia has been a member of the International Council on Archives since 1992. The Estonian Association of Archivists was established in 1939 (re-established in 1989) and it unites approximately 100 archivists.

The activities of museums and libraries in Estonia are managed and co-ordinated by the Ministry of Culture, the legal basis of their work being the Museums Act adopted in 1996. Museums fall into the following categories: central museums within the jurisdiction of the ministry, county museums within the jurisdictions of county governments, and municipal museums within the jurisdictions of local governments. Central museums cover their particular fields of interest in the entire country, while county and municipal museums are of local significance.

The following central museums are located in Tallinn: the Estonian History Museum, the Museum of Estonian Architecture, the Art Museum of Estonia, the Estonian Museum of Natural History, the Estonian Maritime Museum, the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum, the Estonian Health Care Museum and the Open Air Museum. The Estonian National Museum, the Estonian Literary Museum (including the Archival Library and its bibliography department, the Estonian Folklore Archives, and the Cultural History Archives) and the Estonian Sports Museum are located in Tartu. The Estonian Agricultural Museum is situated in Tartu County, in Ülenurme.

Let us also mention a number of county museums: the Museum of Harju County, Hiiumaa Museum, Iisaku Museum, Järva County Museum, Läänemaa Museum, Mahtra Peasantry Museum, Palamuse Parish Museum of Oskar Luts, Põlva Peasantry Museum, Pärnu Museum, Rakvere Museum, Saaremaa Museum, Tartu County Museum, Valga Museum, Viljandi Museum, and Võru County Museum. Bigger cities such as Tallinn, Tartu and Narva also have special city museums.

Furthermore, many bodies governed by public law have their own museums and there are also some private museums: the Estonian Fight for Freedom Museum, the Railway Museum, the Firefighters’ Museum, the Energy Museum, the Oil Shale Museum, the Forestry Museum, the Broadcasting Museum, the Communications Museum, the Postal Museum, the Museum of Pedagogy, the Museum of Weighing Instruments, the Toy Museum and many more. The Estonian Museum Association was established in 1988 and it has approximately 300 members.

Library work is governed by the National Library of Estonia Act and by the Public Libraries Act adopted in 1998. There are 585 public libraries in Estonia, 108 of them in towns and 477 in rural areas. In county centres and bigger towns there are 20 public libraries that also perform the duties of central libraries by co-ordinating and managing the work of public libraries in their particular regions.

In Tallinn there are the following scientific libraries: the Estonian Academic Library, the Tallinn Technical University Library, the Tallinn Pedagogical University Library, the Estonian Academy of Music Library, the Estonian Academy of Arts Library, the Medical Library of Estonia and the Estonian Patent Library. Tartu is the seat for the Tartu University Library, the Library of the Estonian Agricultural University and the Archival Library of the Estonian Literary Museum.

The National Library of Estonia in Tallinn is the central library performing the functions of a national, parliamentary and scientific library. There are approximately 3000 librarians in Estonia; 700 of them are members of the Estonian Association of Librarians established in 1923 (re-established in 1988) which, in turn, has been a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) since 1989.

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