I like bohemian cities – I guess I am an old soul that way – and I am not into clubbing. I used to be, but now I’d rather escape the crowds to admire a piece of art in a gallery or to visit a church and to let my soul bask in the sanctity of the place in quiet and solitude, stepping with care not to disturb the silence with the echo of my heels. But the thing I enjoy the most is seeing something special like the Estonian National Museum.
They say they waited 107 years to have a national museum, a long time by any measure, but it was well worth it. What a sight! It is an understatement to call this building an architectural gem. They took a former Soviet airfield and placed on it something that makes you go “wow” just by looking from a distance. Architectural design firm Dorell Ghotmeh Tane (DGT) imagined the new landmark of Tartu as an extension of the old runway. It is a glass structure, covered in stylised cornflowers on the facade, with a total exhibition area of 34000 m² and the largest museum of its kind in the Baltic states. In the words of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves,
This museum and these halls here in Raadi were built to honour the Estonian people and the country itself. It was built to honour our national consciousness and independence.
And it is worth a visit. The colossal building has ample spaces bathed in natural light, albeit some areas are dark to display historical exhibits in the appropriate contrast. The museum opened with two permanent exhibitions: Encounters and Echo of the Urals, each with its own specific.
Encounters deals directly with the local folk from the Stone Age to modern times, taking an in-depth look at life, traditions, and heritage. Subsections of the exhibition include Journeys in Time, People and the Environment, My Own Abode, The Runo Song, The People and the State, Food We Cook, The Imprint of Time on Estonian Wraps, Do It Yourself Hall, The Language Brew, Parallel Worlds. Parallel Lives, Rural Life and Rural Beauty, and Cities within a City.
Echo of the Urals is all about the Finno-Ugric people, their culture, languages, and genetic background. It is the largest exhibition dealing with this subject ever produced. It offers an immersive experience with more than static exponents: visitors can play games, explore maps, watch animations based on Finno-Ugric fairy tales, and much more.
There’s also an elegant restaurant serving typical fare to complete the experience of the Estonian National Museum – in Estonian Eesti rahva muuseum. A temporary exhibition hall is planned to open on the premises next year in February along with further developments. It may be not complete yet, but this museum is a rewarding experience, one to enjoy at a slow pace.