Laboratoorne portselan Tartu Ülikooli muuseumi kogudes. Laboratory Porcelain in the Collections of the University of Tartu Museum


  • Leili Kriis



 The University of Tartu Museum’s laboratory porcelain collection mostly includes items that were purchased for the University of Tartu laboratories for research (substance analysis etc.) and teaching purposes (for performing practical tasks such as making medicines).
The porcelain collections in Estonian museums (the Mikkel Museum, Art Museum of Estonia and Estonian History Museum) mainly consist of tableware, ornaments and memorabilia. Several museums (e.g., in Saare and Järva Counties) have apothecary ware. The University of Tartu Museum’s laboratory porcelain collection reflects the evolution of ceramics in the general historical development of chemistry and pharmaceutical laboratories. The oldest items were likely ordered by two professors active in the 19th century: Carl Schmidt (1822–1894, Professor of Chemistry 1852–1892) and Georg Dragendorf 1836–1898, Professor of Pharmacy). Both professors had the opportunity to renew their laboratory equipment in the middle of the 19th century, which they did. The most valued part of the collection is the vast selection of older porcelain items from the Institute of Pharmacy, created in 1844.
The collection of laboratory porcelain has accumulated over the years and it currently consists of more than 1,000 items. The oldest pieces ordered for the University of Tartu laboratories date from the mid-19th century, starting from 1844–1847 (Köningliche Porzellan Manufaktur Berlin). The porcelain items that were ordered for the University in the 19th century and the early 20th century come from other sources, too, mainly from German companies such as Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen, Sanitäts-Porzellan Manufactur W. Haldenwanger and Spandau. The grog and stoneware purchased for the chemistry laboratory at the same time also came from other parts
of Europe (the United Kingdom and France).
The porcelain labware purchased after World War II starting
from the 1950s and 1960s mainly came from the porcelain factories of Leningrad and Riga and Klin in Moscow Oblast. The product list and its changes are reflected in catalogues issued by porcelain companies, which were also used for determining the names and details of the porcelain items discussed in this overview.
The collection only has a few items produced by Europe’s oldest porcelain manufacturer Meissen. Most of the items from the older period bear the marking of the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin, which was one of the main porcelain manufacturers in Germany apart from Meissen. The list of items from W. Haldenwanger’s porcelain factory is also varied.
Apart from a few exceptions, the laboratory porcelain from the second half of the 20th century mainly comes from the porcelain factories of St. Petersburg, Riga and Klin in Moscow Oblast: the collection includes a few items from the Porcelain Factory in Leningrad and a varied selection from Riga and Klin. The products of these three factories differ from German laboratory porcelain from the late 19th and early 20th century both for the quality of the porcelain and finishing of the glazing. The later labware is visually more robust and has simpler finishing, visually resembling hard earthenware, the ingredient quantities and clay type of which can slightly differ from hard-paste porcelain. The older objects include more specific items made for special purposes while the majority of the later ones are of general nature.
Many porcelain items fell into disuse due to advancements in university studies and laboratories. Pharmacist training used to include detailed courses on preparing medicines, because many products (e.g., tinctures, ointments and suppositories) that are now produced by large drug companies used to be made in pharmacies. Additionally, new special fireproof and durable materials have been introduced in the field of labware, the use of which results in different and better quality indicators than those of traditional porcelain.


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Muuseumikogud (Collections)