Kuidas portreteerida akadeemilist vaimu? Ülikoolimuuseumide identiteedimuutustest kahe viimase sajandi jooksul


  • Mariann Raisma




HOW TO PORTRAY ACADEMIC SPIRIT. Identity changes in university museums over the last two centuries

Mariann Raisma, MA, Director of the University of Tartu History Museum


A university museum is like a window into the university. This statement is a concise characterisation of the essence of academic museums. This article examines the identity changes in university museums over the last two centuries and analyses the issues shaping the appearance and role of university museums today. University museums and collections are aggregates of the history of the social elite. Items for such museums are selected based on paradigm shifts and developments in perception of education and science. It is namely through the things preserved in university museums that we see clearly what humankind knows about nature, the universe and human beings.

University-based museums are the oldest in Estonia, too: the University of Tartu’s Natural History Museum was established in 1802, while its sibling, the Art Museum, was born just a year later. Yet many of the university-owned museums in Estonia and worldwide are quite young and quite a few have the status of mere collections. For instance, the Museum of Tallinn University of Technology was reopened only in 2009.

This article analyses types of university museums and the idea behind the concept of academic museums, using as an example the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University. While the university museums existing in the 19th century focused on lecturing and research work, the 20th century saw the emergence of a new type of university-based museum that concentrated efforts on historically valuable science- and education-related collections and the history of their university. Two trends are discerned from analysis of such museums in Europe: the first stresses science (science museum/museum of history of science) and the second focuses on the university’s history (university museum), with historically valuable scientific materials serving the latter priority. This article highlights the typical issues of modern-day university museums, such as centralisation vs decentralisation, university history vs history of science and curator vs researcher, and discusses the public role of university museums.


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