I CREATIVE ESTONIA
Yet it took another generation for the new and greatest exhibition space in Estonia to open its exhibitions to the public on 1 October, 2016. It took all this time despite the fact that the need for the construction of the museum building was repeatedly decided by the Parliament of Estonia and also by subsequent governments.
At the same time, the new building, linked to the military heritage of occupiers, ties together the good and the bad in the complicated history of twentieth century Estonia, emphasising that we need to remember everything, and who else should recall everything as an institution of collective memory but the National Museum?
When finally, in 2005, the decision was made to announce an international architectural competition for the museum building, there was a museum boom going on in Europe and the world. Amazing buildings were being developed everywhere and world-famous architects were also interested in designing landmark establishments. However, the procurement announced by Estonia attracted primarily younger and lesser-known architects. Over a hundred entries were submitted, and it was the bold vision which tested the limits of the competition conditions created by three Paris-based young architects − Dan Dorelli, Lina Ghotmeh and Tsuyoshi Tane (www.dgtarchitects.com) which was announced as the winner. As a result of ten years of work, the finished construction is quite different from the initial competition concept, but the long period of project realisation has definitely benefited the technical and content-related ideas of the establishment. As a result, Estonian people will get what they really deserve. The cultural project, with a budget of €75 million, is the biggest to date in Estonian history.
What Is Displayed in the Museum?
The building which is located on a 50-hectare area, is grandiose by Estonian standards, reaching 355 metres in length and 71 metres in width. The first part of the building reaches over 15 metres in height but the interior rooms on the other end are only 2.5 metres high, with the additional architectural elements melting into the concrete surface of the old air strip (which the building has been designed as a part of). As a universal symbol the building refers to a ‘take-off’, which links to the yearning for independence of every human being and as such also speaks to every nation which has become free.
The exhibits of the museum are spread over more than 6 000 square metres and, in addition to nearly 10 000 items, there are various high-tech creations and unique IT-applications and installations. The permanent exhibition of Estonian cultural history entitled ‘Meetings’ is a chronological overview of cultural breakthroughs over as long as 11 000 years (including the introduction or iron, birth of the Estonian written language and education system or the arrival of the steam engine in the villages) and eleven theme exhibitions supporting this.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #43
The Estonian National Museum defines itself as a national museum, but the content of this term varies widely in Europe. The national museum of the Estonians is a museum of national culture, which deals with the everyday life and manifestations of everyday culture of the Estonian people throughout history. The museum belongs to the people and studies its people and attempts to bring the details and generalities of daily life closer to people. In this spirit, the exhibit excludes such personalities as kings, generals or events like wars and heroic deeds. The museum instead showcases people in their everyday living conditions in the past, so it is no wonder that we can see what people do in their bedrooms (where they spent around a third of their lives!) what they ate, talked about and who they spent their spare time with.