Tartu City Museum permanent exhibition revamp postponed over lack of funds

Tartu City Museum
Tartu City Museum Source: Tartu City Museum

Work on renewing the permanent exhibition at the Tartu City Museum was originally due to be completed in time for 2024, Tartu's year as European Capital of Culture. However, now the city has postponed the renewal for an unspecified period of time, citing a lack of available funds. The proposed construction of a new cultural center in the heart of Tartu, which is estimated to cost €90 million, remains firmly in the city's plans.

Visiting the permanent exhibition at the Tartu City Museum, it is clear that it is more than 20 years old. The history of the city of Tartu is, in a rather old-fashioned style, hidden behind a wall of glass. Inevitably, this has a negative impact on the museum's visitor numbers.

"We're here along with the AHHAA (Science Center), and with the University of Tartu Museum, which has, just recently got some great new exhibits. Not far from us, we also have the Estonian National Museum (ERM). So, the biggest obstacle to an increase in the number of visitors to the Tartu City Museum is the (lack of) replacement of the permanent exhibition," explained Risto Lehiste, director of the Tartu City Museum.

The City of Tartu had allocated more than €4 million from its 2023 budget to cover the renovation of the museum building and replacement of the permanent exhibition. However, after the city government announced that the money to complete the work could not be found, former director of the museum Sirje Karis, who had been working on the renovation plans, resigned.

"The planning had reached a stage where, according to the most optimistic of schedules, it was going to be ready in mid-2024. Even if we had found the money, there was a possibility that it would not have been technically completed by then," explained Tartu Deputy Mayor Priit Humal.

However, now the entire project has been postponed until the distant future.

"I don't know if it's until 2027, 2028 or 2030, but according to the information we have at the moment, there is no money (allocated) in the (city's) four-year strategy to renovate this building," said Lehiste.

When asked in what year the Tartu City Museum is most likely to receive funding to support the renovation of its permanent exhibition, Humal said it was difficult to know for certain.

"It is very difficult to give a concrete answer to this question at the moment, because we do not know what the construction prices or the city's budget considerations will be at these future points in time," Humal said.

One thing that is certain, is that the city's budget includes funds for the proposed construction of a new cultural center in Central Park.

"We would like to have the cultural center in the center of Tartu ready for the use in 2029. These processes will happen step-by-step, but the major construction work is likely to happen in 2027-2028," said Humal.

Under current plans, the city would cover 25 percent €90 million needed to complete the cultural center. Humal added, that although the budget is reviewed every year, it is unrealistic to renovate the City Museum and construct the cultural center at the same time, and that these are political decisions.

"The entire city of Tartu will benefit from the cultural center. Of course, we have a single city budget. And, ultimately, it is the City Council that decides the extent to which things are done," said Humal.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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