Minu elu ülikooli valikud. Uue püsinäituse museoloogiline kontseptsioon

Choices for the university of our lives. Museological concept of the new permanent exhibition

  • Mariann Raisma
  • Karoliina Kalda


The plan to design a new permanent exhibition about the university
in the Morgenstern hall on the 5th floor of the museum was born in
2011. More intensive work started in 2017 when it was clear that the
exhibition would get enough funding to properly execute the project,
and the exposition was completed in time for the 2019 celebration
of centenary of the national university. In creating the exhibit, we
proceeded from the basics of modern museology, considering different
types of learning, and involving several interest groups in creating
the exhibition, as well as keeping them in mind as visitors.
In Morgenstern hall the interior design by Johann Wilhelm Krause,
the architect of the university, has survived in its most authentic form
dating back to 1806. One of the more important priorities of the project
was to restore the former ambiance of the library that has been ‘lost in
restauration’ throughout the years. At the designers’, as well as visitors’
request, the characteristic keywords of the room were to be mystery,
creativity, surprise, infinity, nostalgia, warmth, comprehension, and entertainment.
The goals for the interior design were the following:
–– to bring back the majestic interior of the library—the Estonian
–– to find balance between the complex room and content of the layered
–– to restore and reuse as many original pieces of furniture from the
library and the university as possible
–– to create a magical and creative environment, a room full of discoveries
and surprises, secret nooks and activities that cannot be
found anywhere else.
During the construction preceding the interior design work, a new
weak and high current system was installed, the lighting of the hall
was replaced, and the flooring was sanded and tinted. Recycling the
old furniture played an important role in creating the historic atmosphere. For this, several historic cabinets were conserved and completed,
and shelving units from the mid-1800s were restored.
In selecting the museological solutions of the exhibit, we proceeded
from the environment, as well as what we thought would interest
our main target groups. In designing the concept, we kept in mind
the three important aspects of social inclusion according to Eilean
Hooper-Greenhill and Richard Sandell: 1) accessibility, 2) participation,
3) representation. We added a fourth factor—openness, the axis
of Estonia-Europe-the world. In details, the targets for the new exhibit
were the following:
–– to capture the essence of the university through colourful personae
and stories
–– to portray the development of the university in international context,
as well as introduce the university’s role as the communicator
of European values in Estonian history
–– to introduce the most significant scientific breakthroughs that
started or were built upon in Tartu
–– to inspire people to reminisce about their olden days in Tartu, the
best years of their lives as students
–– to discuss what the University of Tartu means to Estonia; what
has been the role and significance of the university in the development
of the Estonian state and society
–– to encourage people to think of what the university means to
them individually, how the university has changed our lives, and
through that highlight the university’s value and significance.
The main target groups of the exhibit are the current and future
alumni of the University of Tartu, their families, guests of the university,
and foreign tourists. A survey was conducted amongst target and
interest groups in the spring and summer of 2018. 65 target group and
17 interest group representatives took part and gave feedback on their
visitation habits, the ways in which they acquire information at exhibits,
and more specifically about the topics that would interest them at
an exhibition about the history of the university. The survey revealed
that people want an exhibit with an overall light and happy atmosphere
with a touch of nostalgia. Most target groups saw the student
life and recreation as the most interesting topics, but university buildings
and architecture, and the most remarkable alumni and professors received many mentions, too. As a result of the survey, we shifted our
attention to covering student life, the rectors and current division of
faculties in the university, about which the interest groups had been
curious. Additionally, we received useful information on which interactive
activities and IT solutions people wish to see at the exhibit.
In creating the exhibition, we followed the principle that every
subtopic should have an element that each type of learner could relate
to in a meaningful way. We analysed the techniques used at the
exhibition in accordance with Peter van Mensch’s division: static
(the visitor views static material), dynamic (the visitor views moving
material), and interactive (the visitor actively participates in
gaining knowledge). At the exhibit, we tried to balance the different
techniques, as well as digital and mechanic interactivity. Examples
of the static technique are displays and authentic university-related
objects, telling fascinating stories. As it was impossible to display the
University’s two foundation acts (from 1632 and 1802), we decided
to prepare copies that resemble the originals as closely as possible,
using historic or similar materials, as well as techniques dating back
to the time when the documents were created. Visitors can touch and
browse the foundation act of 1802 during their tour. The exhibit has
many examples of the dynamic technique as well, such as materials
from the video archive, documented memories, as well as databases
founded for the exhibition. Album Academicum 1632–2019 lists all
the graduates of the university and another database provides information
on all the buildings of the University of Tartu through its
four centuries. We also put effort into creating mechanically interactive
solutions, such as the showpiece illustrating the theory of blood
clotting, singing beer steins and a roulette table displaying key facts.
As with all projects, this one had its ups and downs, some elements
worked out differently from what was planned or do not work
how we imagined they would. After opening, we have analysed the
successes and failures, viewed how the visitors see the exhibits, and
adjusted several parts. The result has been commended and our exhibit
together with “Estonia of Ideals. 100 Years of Quests” has been
awarded the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s annual award. The
exhibition design has been nominated for the Annual Award of the
Estonian Association of Interior Architects.


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