Lutheran archbishop offended by national museum exhibit (15)
The head of the Estonian Lutheran church, Archbishop Urmas Viilma, said that while he finds the exhibit displayed in the new building of the Estonian National Museum (ERM) to be rich in content, an interactive piece displayed there to illustrate 16th century iconoclasm hurt the feelings of Christians.
“There’s a lot to look at and explore in ERM. Also, the part of the exhibit dealing with the church and the Christian faith is diverse, sufficiently representative, and interesting,” Viilma wrote on Facebook. “There was one piece that annoyed me though. It is a big transparent screen almost as tall as a human being on which an image of St. Mary the Virgin is displayed. That image remains there until someone kicks a specially marked sector in the lower part of the screen with their foot. As a result of the kick, the image is shattered into pieces. And this is the point of this piece of the exhibit – to let someone break an image of St. Mary the Virgin with a kick of their foot.”
“I can imagine a whole class of children lining up one after another to be able to kick St. Mary with their foot. I am sure that this piece will prove one of the favorites of children and young people in that section, if not in all of ERM. But now let us think that we could have displayed in the same manner the blowing up of the Stone Bridge of Tartu, or the unrest of the Bronze Night, where it would be possible to virtually set fire to really existing buildings in Tallinn, and we perhaps start seeing things in a different light,” he said.
"You could create a whole museum’s worth of exhibits that would be popular in that sense, but which would surely be an offense to someone’s sensibilities and convictions. What is the pedagogical effect of this?! How does a thing like this test the limits or our ethics?”, Viilma wrote.
“The problem is that ERM looks at iconoclasm as a historical event, and uses an image of St. Mary the Virgin to illustrate it. For many believers however St. Mary is not a person or an event in history, but something real and present,” Viilma went on. “I have serious doubts about the suitability of this piece to be a part of the permanent exhibit of ERM, although it may be a technically interesting or contemporary way of displaying events that have taken place in history,” he said.