Tartu Ülikooli ajaloo muuseumi kogude täiendamispõhimõtetest — tagasivaatavalt tulevikku


  • Leili Kriis




On the underlying principles of supplementing the collections of the History Museum of the University of Tartu: a future retrospect

Leili Kriis, MA, Chief Treasurer of the History Museum of the University of Tartu


The History Museum was created at the University of Tartu in 1976 with the aim of recording the history of the university in particular and of science in general. The museum statutes changed but its goals remained basically the same. From the outset the museum has been responsible for the safekeeping of the old items submitted to it – and for keeping an eye on the old items still used by the university. The elaborated plan with principles of collection was compiled in 1998. It was expanded in 2004 when the museums of nature, art and history of the University of Tartu were merged and each museum had to work on their autonomous collection policies. The sphere covered by the collecting work of the History Museum has essentially remained the same because while collecting things connected with the university the museum has also been collecting items pertaining to the Estonian (and, selectively, global) history of education and science. It is natural for the principles of supplementation of museum collections to be changing and evolving in accordance with overall developments at the University of Tartu and in universities worldwide.

When the new collection principles plan for 2012 was being compiled, the focal issue was how the collections of the museum were special and different from other similar domestic and foreign collections. The collections of the History Museum of the University of Tartu are indeed unique in the context of Estonian memory institutions because it is the oldest (and, in the 17th and 19th centuries, the sole) university in the region. Our collections have distinctive features in the global context of university museum collections, too. This museum has the oldest, most extensive and unique collection of scientific equipment in Estonia. Of international interest are the collections dedicated to education and science and containing items of both local and foreign origin.

The main emphasis for museum collection supplementation over the next few decades must be on gathering and documenting modern subject matter (or that from the recent past). These are the priorities: collecting of locally made (University of Tartu, City of Tartu and Estonia) scientific instruments and important scientific research results in the form of material, documentary or digital information; remarkable people with connections to the university (scientists, lecturers, students and alumni) and materials reflecting on their creative and other activities; recording of changes in the daily functioning of the university (anniversaries, events, renovations of historically valuable buildings etc.); and the history of education and science (in Estonia and globally) in the context of the University of Tartu. All personal archives are still to be submitted to the university library while the archives of digital photographs and videos are to evolve as part of the multimedia department.

Among the planned activities for museum collection supplementation are the invariably vital tasks of preserving cultural heritage and facilitating historical research. In our collecting work we must take into account the stipulated preservation conditions (also applicable to digital materials) and the resources available for thorough processing of the collections and their public display (via databases, exhibitions, publications and otherwise). The collecting work is and will remain a creative activity, even within the framework of the set supplementation principles, and necessitates assessment of the value of the potential museum items and making of choices.


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