Poolelijäänud teadustöö. Helmi Kurriku elu keerdkäigud 20. sajandil
Unfinished research. The twists and turns of
Helmi Kurrik’s life in the 20th century
Helmi Kurrik (1883–1960) was known as a first-generation Estonian
ethnologist who worked at the Estonian National Museum (ERM)
before and during World War II and who edited the 1938 collection
Eesti rahvarõivad (Estonian national costumes). Generally, this is
the extent of our knowledge about her. Yet, she can be considered
one of the most important ethnologists in the pre-war republic in
addition to Ilmari Manninen, Gustav Ränk and Ferdinand Linnus.
How can we interpret Helmi Kurrik’s role in Estonian cultural history,
specifically her role in Estonian ethnology and museology? Why
has so little been written about her? Was it that her contemporaries
such as G. Ränk were (more) successful as researchers and brighter
personalities? Is it that Kurrik became a researcher “too late”? Why
are some researchers prominent in historiography while others remain
in the background? What are the bases for writing about the
history of research?
The article explores some of the stages of Helmi Kurrik’s life that
began already in the 19th century in the family of a leading figure of
the Estonian national movement and ended in near obscurity in California,
United States of America, where Kurrik resided as a refugee.
Her road to becoming a researcher was bumpy but due to this we can
be certain of her desire to work as an ethnologist. Kurrik’s research,
reports and correspondence are also analysed to shed light on her
thoughts on folk culture and ethnology.