The new Estonian National Museum is scheduled to open on Oct. 1. ETV broadcast "Ringvaade" reporter Jüri Muttika was recently given the opportunity to look around inside the museum, which is still busily being outfitted and prepared for opening day, together with museum director Kaarel Tarand.
The first display in place in the museum was a bust of notable Estonian folklorist, theologian and linguist Jakob Hurt. "Hurt was in principle in place before the start of construction already, as the collection of antiquities in Estonia initiated by Jakob Hurt led to various contacts before his death already, and after his departure, Estonia's better sons began to work hard to establish the Estonian National Museum," explained Tarand on "Ringvaade."
According to Tarand, the Finno-Ugric exhibits, including a full-sized sauna, are mostly finished already. "We will be installing lighting in the sauna and unfortunately it is not yet sooty because a fire has not been lit in it," said Tarand, adding that the sauna in the museum was in fact a copy. "The idea behind this was not to lug our kindred people's old stuff here from far-off Russia," he explained.
As it currently has nothing to screen, the Estonian National Museum's movie theater screen is currently still covered by a giant textile work of art entitled "Pinecones and stumps" — evocative of an Estonian proverb similar in meaning to "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" — by Anna Kaarma and Eve Kask. Tarand explained that, given Estonians' strong backgrund in textile work, it would be most reasonable to order a textile piece for the screen as well.
The work, which from a distance depicts a forest but up close is made up of Estonian names — as it is very common in Estonia for families to be named after types of trees, including birch, maple, linden or spruce — is meant to speak of Estonians as people of the forest.
According to Tarand, the museum's kitchen and restaurant, which has sparked a great deal of debate in recent months in particular, will be ready for use by Oct. 1 as well. The menu reportedly will not only contain simply sauerkraut and pork, either.
"The Estonian people have for the most part been poor and therefore eaten more poorly as well — wealthy people have always maintained a diverse diet, utilizing the opportunities provided by the flora and fauna of local forests and fields," he explained. Tarand pointed out that as the museum expects to be visited by people with all kinds of different dietary preferences, it is important that the restaurant can offer everyone something suitable. "As there is a total of over 6,000 square meters [just under 65,000 square feet] of exhibition space in which one has over 500 pages of text to read and hours of footage to watch, then it is understandable that one must sit down and eat meanwhile," said the museum's director.
Original Estonian flag to be put on permanent display
In Tarand's opinion, the most important item to be exhibited in the Estonian National Museum will be the original blue, black and white tricolor dating back to 1884. "Everything which has been built here is in some respects a consequence [of the flag]," he said.
The flag, which was originally consecrated as the flag of the Estonian Students' Society (EÜS) in Otepää on June 4, 1884, will reach its new home at the national museum on Thursday, Sept. 15.
When Soviet occupying forces outlawed the activities of all student organizations in June 1940, EÜS' leadership decided to undertake an operation to save and protect the original tricolor, first by switching out the original flag being stored in a stronghold of the Estonian National Museum (ERM) for a duplicate, then burying the carefully wrapped up original in the base of the chimney on the Kõola village farm of then-fraternity president Karl Aun.
The Estonian flag was retrieved from Aun's farm only four months after Estonia regained its independence on August 20, 1991.
After undergoing restoration, the original Estonian flag has remained under the care of ERM while simultaneously remaining under the jurisdiction of EÜS, whose permission was needed to retrieve the flag from storage at ERM and display it on rare occasions; the last time the flag was publicly displayed was in 2014, in honor of the flag's 130th birthday.
The flag will be retrieved from its current location in storage at the Estonian National Museum's old building in central Tartu, located at Veski 32, at 1 p.m., after which a motorcade will deliver it to the museum's new building on the city's northeastern edge in Raadi.
Once there, the flag will be ceremonially placed in a secure showcase, where it will become a part of a permanent exhibit on the history of the formation of the Estonian national identity and state.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla