Tartu Ülikooli kunstiajaloo kabineti rännulugu ja Karl Eduard von Lipharti foto- ja reproduktsioonide kollektsiooni saatus. The Journey of the University of Tartu Art History Cabinet and the Fate of Karl Eduard von Liphart's Collection of Photos and Reproductive Prints


  • Tullio Ilomets




Art historical collections form a significant part of the University
of Tartu’s many scientific and historical collections. This paper provides an overview of the founding of the Art History Cabinet by the Swedish art historian and the University of Tartu’s first Professor of Art History Tor Helge Kjellin in 1922 and the travels of the cabinet and its objects, which began in 1941, as well as their temporal journey through the various University buildings. It also focuses on the fate of the vast collection of photos and reproductive prints that once belonged to the owner of the Raadi Manor and art collector Karl Eduard von Liphart, purchased for the Art History Cabinet from the Pallas Art Society on 13 November 1922 at the initiative of Professor H. Kjellin. The paper seeks to find out what is left of this collection today after frequent moving and constant lack of space. The Art History
Cabinet and its items have been located in 12 different places
between 1922 and 1995. It has not had its own rooms since 1941. The last place the cabinet remained for a longer period (20 years) was the building of the Estonian Students’ Society, in the dissolved (at 1940) society’s former library where it stayed from 1971 to 1992. The cabinet moved out from there in March 1992 and its objects were divided between several locations, because the University’s new building, which was supposed to become the cabinet’s new home, was not finished yet. The Liphart collection was severely damaged due to moving, but probably also due to deliberate destruction and disposal, because it was not considered thematically equal to other collections in the cabinet. At the end of December 1995, parts of the Liphart collection—mostly photos, but also reproductive and art prints that were somehow left behind or forgotten  there—were discovered from a wall cupboard in the library of the building returned to the Estonian Students’ Society. The Department of Art History did not want this part of the collection back and thus it was decided to store it in the Museum of Classical Antiquities. In January 1996, additional photos
were brought in from the Study Library’s storage room where most of the Art History Cabinet’s assets, including a part of the Liphart collection, were kept since March 1992. The museum selected 204 photos from the received collection and decided to send the rest, which were declared unnecessary, to the Viljandi Culture College in spring 1996, stating that only prints were sent there. These were not used as study aids but remained boxed and were stored in the college’s new building. The storage place had to be cleared due to a lack of space somewhere around 2003 and Viljandi Paalalinna Gymnasium agreed to accept the collection. The renovation of the school began in 2005 and, thanks to a teacher’s and college lecturer’s quick thinking, the photo collection found its new home in a room in St. Paul’s Church in Viljandi. Upon closer inspection of the collection stored in the church it was found that it included photos bearing the University of Tartu Art Museum stamp from the times of the Russian Empire, which meant that these came from the University of Tartu. The University of Tartu Art Museum was notified of this around five years ago and people were sent over to inspect the collection, but its fate remained undecided. It was concluded that the museum was not interested in retrieving the collection. Two years ago, this part of the Liphart collection—3,380 photos, which make it one of the largest known to survive—was given to a collector interested in the history of photography. According to an inventory book from 1933, the Liphart photo collection included 12,951 photos. Preliminary data suggests that the University owns 2,284 photos today. This means that 44% (including the pieces in private collections) of the Liphart photo collection has survived and is known to researchers. The photos and reproductive prints in the Liphart collection continue to be highly valued as examples of the history of photography but also photo printing and, from the perspective of art history, original documents of their time. However, the people involved have been unable to study and assess this collection from this perspective, especially in the last few decades.


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Muuseumikogud (Collections)