Science & Collections

Tallinna Kirjanduskeskus’ collection principles

 Tallinna Kirjanduskeskus’ mission

The Tallinn Literary Center was established at the beginning of 2017 and brings together the legacy of our most famous writers A.H. Tammsaare and Eduard Vilde, and from 2019 also the life and work of Mati Undi. The Literary Center consists of the Tammsaare and Vilde museums and the temporary Mati Undi museum, which is still in progress as a permanent museum in 2021. The center actively participates in the literary life of Tallinn.

The center has set  a goal of mapping the city’s literary heritage (commemorative plaques, monuments) in a broader sense, as well as our mission is to research writers who are significantly connected to Tallinn and capture their memory, discuss the image of Tallinn in Estonian (and also foreign) literature, develop international relations, etc.

This means that, on the one hand, the Tallinn Literary Center deals with literary heritage of pan-Estonian importance, while at the same time, it plays an important role in recording and presenting the capital’s history.

Every year, the center organizes the Literary Street festival, where attention is directed to Estonian literature, literary heritage, and the literary public space around us. Within this, and also more generally, the local cultural heritage is mapped (a memorial bench for Mati Undi, a memorial bench for Enn Soosaare, a memorial plaque on the wall of the Weizenbergi 8 house, where Marie Under and Artur Adson once lived; a memorial plaque on the wall of the Kunderi 10 house, where Juhan Jaik lived). So far, we have opened a commemorative plaque once a year as part of the festival, but the goal is to open more commemorative plaques a year, not only as part of the festival’s activities. In 2020, in cooperation with the Central Government, the Reading Pavilion was opened at the corner of Faehlmann/Koidula Street, which serves as a book exchange and a literary hangout and brings the atmosphere of Kiryandustänava to Koidula Street. In 2021, with the help of a private sponsor, the “Literature Street” project was also completed, which is planned to be developed in the coming years in cooperation with the city of Tallinn.

Tallinna Kirjanduskeskus administers the map application, which collects and marks the places of Tallinn covered in fiction, the residences of writers, and the places where the most important literary events took place. The map can be used to explore urban space and to teach literature, as well as history or geography. Each quote on the map has the author’s name and the work from which the quote comes, text examples are related to specific places in urban space. Independent walking trails have also been created on the map: Eduard Vilde Tallinn roads; Tallinn map of Jan Kaus; Literary Kadriorg; Mati Undi’s path of thought; The old town of Jaan Kross.

History of the Tallinna Kirjanduskeskus

The foundations of the Vilde Museum’s collections were laid with the creation of the E. Vilde Memorial Museum on August 29, 1946. The collection was based on the historical items received from Linda Vilde and a large number of documents and correspondence. The writer’s widow also provided information about the furnishings of their former home and the location of the objects, and this is still the basis of the museum’s historical apartment display. The original manuscript materials of E. Vilde’s work were handed over to the Tartu Literature Museum by L. Vilde’s decision, therefore the collection of the E. Vilde Museum of the Tallinn Library Center mostly contains copies of manuscripts. After Linda Vilde’s death in 1966, materials related to L. Vilde were added to the museum’s assets.

A. H. The Tammsaare Apartment Museum was opened on the 100th anniversary of the writer’s birth on January 30, 1978, since then we can talk about the collections of the Tammsaare Museum. Historically, the accumulated materials were so numerous that it became inevitably necessary to combine   the historical material concerning A.H. Tammsaare into a complete collection of the museum.   A major role in the creation of Tammsaare Museum’s collections was played by the director at the time, Elem Treier. A large part of the collections is based on material collected and stored by literary scholars who studied Tammsaare’s life and work. The objects of the apartment with a historical interior come from the Tammsaaride family. Half of the original works and manuscript heritage of the writer’s work is located in Tammsaare Museum, the rest is preserved in the Literature Museum and other   museums.

In the years 2005-2016, the A.H. Tammsaare and E. Vilde museums were part of the Tallinn City Museum as branches, and the museum collections were supplemented according to the development plans of the City Museum.

The oldest museum of the Tallinn Literary Center is the Eduard Vilde Museum located at Roheline aas 3, also known as the Castle House of Kadrioru Park. The museum building together with the two adjacent buildings is part of the historical ensemble of Kadrioru Castle. The two-story wooden building was built as a residence for the castellan (castle guard and park supervisor) between 1833 and 1850. The glazed porch and staircase of the Neo-Baroque style house were added to the main part later. In other parts, the building has been preserved in its original appearance. The Republic of Estonia decided to give writer and diplomat Eduard Vilde (1865 – 1933) a house with grass and garden land for his 60th birthday.  After a long search, in 1927, a suitable 6-room apartment was found in a Castellan house owned by the state, with the then address Koidula 34. When Vildede moved in, the facade of the house was dark brown instead of the current pink. There were also big trees in front of the house   and a small flower garden surrounded by a tree fence. At the expense of the Ministry of Education, the apartment was renovated and furnished with A. M. Luther factory. In November 1927, the writer moved to a new home with his wife Linda, and his mother Kai Pahker. After E. Vilde’s death, Peeter Päts, the younger brother of Konstantin Päts, lived in the same apartment, and was responsible for the maintenance of the park.
Several interior doors and tiled stoves from the 19th century have been preserved in the house, as well as the apartment’s lighting fixtures, period wallpaper and textiles.   In 2020, all windows and exterior doors of the historic building were renovated under the supervision of the Heritage Protection Board.

A. H. Tammsaare’s historic home is located at Koidula 12 A. The writer’s five-room apartment is located on the second floor of the building, which is furnished in its original form. It was here that Tammsaare wrote his work of the 1930s.

The writer moved into the house in 1932 and lived there until his death on March 1, 1940.   At the time of the Republic of Estonia, Tammsaare’s house and the two outbuildings that were later built around it were surrounded by a large garden, which, as today, was bordered by Koidula, Faehlmann and Köler streets. The owner of the houses was ship captain Hermann Soone, who bought the house in 1920. Hermann Soone died in 1942. deported in Siberia.

The restoration of a more than 100-year-old house into a museum was an extremely labor-intensive undertaking. The exterior of the building, the writer’s apartment, the staircase leading to it, the garden surrounding the house, and the fence had to be preserved in the Tammsaare-era recognizability. In the rest of the building, on the other hand, it was possible to freely build and create exhibition spaces that meet modern requirements. The last time the building was more thoroughly renovated was in 2000, in 2005 a new permanent exhibition was created on the 2nd floor in the rooms opposite the historic apartment.

The Mati Undi Museum was opened as a temporary museum in November 2019. The opening hours of the museum, which was originally supposed to be open for a couple of months, were extended in 2020, and in 2021 an agreement was reached with the city to buy the museum premises in 2022 and turn the Mati Undi museum into a permanent museum. Achieving the status of a permanent museum immediately leads to the need for Mati Undi’s collections, which at the moment have not yet been created.

Legal acts and strategic documents regulate the activities of the Tallinn Literature Center

Tallinn Literature Center is based on the Museum Act, the ICOM Code of Ethics,   state and Tallinn legislation, the administrative acts of the head of the Culture and Sports Board, and the statutes of Tallinn Literature Center.

Structure of the Tallinn Literature Center

The Tallinn Literary Center includes the following structural units:

  1. A. H. Tammsaare Museum, where the following exhibition spaces are located: On the 1st floor, a cashier’s room, a museum shop, a gallery room for holding events; Historic apartment on the 2nd floor; permanent exhibition “The truth is in man” (2006), temporary exhibition space; workspaces (director of the center; educational curator); storage room.
  2. The Eduard Vilde Museum, where the following exhibition spaces are located: on the 1st floor, cashier’s room, permanent exhibition “Everyone wants to be a part of me!” (2021), historical apartment; On the 2nd floor, the Kastallaanimaja art gallery, offices (office manager, curator); manual library and storage room.
  3. The temporary Mati Undi Museum, which is located on the first floor and consists of four rooms: cashier’s room; exhibition room, movie room, recreation room.

Analysis and valuation of museum collections

The collections of the Tammsaare and Vilde museums of the Tallinn Literary Center are independently divided into four sub-collections: archive, photo, art, historical collection. There are 19 587 items in the museum collection. Both museums also have an auxiliary collection, which gathers  auxiliary materials concerning the era and writers, receptions of the writers’ works. Digital   museums are included in the audiovisual support collection.

In the planned collection of Mati Undi, we will first try to find items, manuscripts, photographs that belonged to the writer; but also to create an archive collection with secondary material (reception, etc.). Through the Undi collection, we want to focus more broadly on the 1960s-1970s. years of research and preservation of Estonian literature; therefore, the collection also includes related material (books, reviews, etc.).

In the historical collections of A. H. Tammsaare and E. Vilde of the Tallinn Literary Center, everything that has a direct connection with the writers’ work is preserved as archival materials, including first editions, manuscripts, correspondence, documents, contracts, etc. Also, what is related to their personal lives and families is to be preserved. (reception until approx. 2012). The museum’s photo collections contain materials that include photos reflecting the life and activities of A.H. Tammsaare and E. Vilde, recordings of theater performances created based on the writers’ work, as well as photos  introducing the era in a broader sense and recordings of literary places that have inspired the writers in their work. In art collections, he has painted portraits of writers, as well as original illustrations for works, bookplates, etc.

The greatest value of museum collections is original material (furniture, clothes, manuscripts, correspondence, etc.), as well as memories and other intellectual heritage that are not stored anywhere else in a museum or archive.

The growth of historical collections is slow these days, because new original objects worthy of preservation in the museum collection are rarely added. Therefore, objects accumulated over the years, which have been found in repositories during the organization and systematization of archives, and whose storage value is assessed according to current criteria, are primarily taken into account and documented as new museums.

The collection of scientific support materials of the Tallinn Literary Center is currently the fastest growing, as studies, articles, materials for new productions, photos, etc. written based on the works of writers are constantly being added to it.  Over time, materials from the history of the museum,  exhibitions and memories of events and places that have been reflected in the works of writers have been collected in the museum’s auxiliary collections.

The problematic material is copies that have been included in the main collection over time. During the analysis of the cultural value of museums, it is necessary to find out how much it is necessary to preserve copies in general and to determine their total belonging. If necessary, material duplicated in several copies in the main collection must be removed from the museum collection and entered into the auxiliary collection. In some cases, it may be inconvenient to store excess remains.

A brief analysis of the collections of other similar or nearby museums

There are 10 working writers’ museums in Estonia with their own collections, whose collection principles and specifics are similar to the collection strategy of the Tallinn Literature Center museums. At the same time, the sizes and storage conditions of the collections are quite different from museum to museum. For example, the SA A. H. Tammsaare Museum on Vargamäe and the Liiv Museum are also open-air museums, and part of the whole of the museum is the buildings and the natural environment that surrounds the museum.

Depending on the characteristics of each writer, the collections of writers’ museums differ in their content, although there are also overlaps (correspondence, photos, etc.). The original materials are located in only one museum, and in general, the collection of each writer’s museum is completely specifically related to a particular writer.

The collections of the museums of the Tallinn Literature Center do not overlap with the museums located in Kadriorg (the SA Estonian Art Museum, the Miia-Milla and Peeter I museums of the Tallinn City Museum).

Collection strategy

Tallinn Literary Center is based on the guidelines for taking museums into account prepared by the Ministry of Culture when supplementing the collections. All decisions to acquire an item of cultural value to the museum collection are considered and justified. All decisions to acquire an item of cultural value to the museum collection are considered and justified. Additional criteria are the origin, typicality, rarity, condition and usability of the item, e.g. in educational programs, exhibition and research activities.

The museum collections of the Tallinn Literary Center focus on collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting/popularizing the original works and objects of the three writers. The goal is to be as complete as possible from the writers’ creations, reception, research, material describing the era, original objects and accompanying stories of the objects, and material concerning the personal life of the writers.

Collecting seeks to avoid duplicate collections of materials that exist in the collections or collection objectives of another museum. Museum collections should be related to a particular writer and his era.

  1. Only materials personally related to the writer (reprints or original materials) are included in the museum collection as archive and artifact collection museums. Other materials concerning the writer (reception, interpretations, etc.) should be included in the auxiliary collection (TA – scientific auxiliary material). Objects that are not accepted into the museum collection:

1) that do not contribute to the fulfillment of the museum’s statutory goals or violate the principles of the ICOM Code of Ethics;

2) which cannot be reasonably stored and preserved;

3) what already exists;

4) for which there is not enough information, what role the object has played in the context of the person or event associated with it.

  1. Materials directly or indirectly related to the writer are taken into account in the photo collection: the writer and his staff, era; places (where the writer has lived or stayed longer, including contemporary recordings of places); translators and researchers; productions based on creations, etc. Ensure that, for example, based on productions, duplicate materials are not taken into account (which exist, for example, in the collections of the Theater and Music Museum).
  2. Works of art directly related to the writer or his work are included in the art collection.
  3. Materials that deal with the interpretation or reception of the writer in a broader sense are taken into account in the collection: reviews, posters, invitations, articles about works, performances and films; research papers on the writer’s work (including seminar papers and other smaller studies) – materials and objects that do not meet the definitions of admission to the main collection, but deserve to be preserved for a shorter or longer time for the preparation of exhibitions and for educational or scientific purposes. The museum keeps track of the collection. If necessary, the materials of the museum’s auxiliary collection may be officially excluded from the collections due to the inappropriateness of the subject area. Then, if they no longer have the status of a Tallinn Literature Center museum, they can be transferred to another museum or cultural institution.
  4. In order to supplement the collections, it is planned to organize various collection actions, first of all, when creating the collections of the Mati Undi Museum. We organized one of these in the spring of 2021 when we invited people to share their memories of the writer under the campaign name “Did you notice Mati?” Further collection actions are related to the collection of memories and objects from Mati Undi’s childhood, among acquaintances and friends. We have also been in contact with Mati Undi’s widow Lii Undi, from whom we have received consent to acquire Undi’s furniture and, hopefully, also personal material (documents, notes, manuscripts). In the case of Tammsaare and Vilde, the previously described work has mostly been done, so we are focusing more on the so-called secondary material. In the case of Tammsaare, the focus is on family-related material. The goal is to collect more memories about the children of Tammsaare, we have dealt with this through various contacts: we have recorded memories, and received some books or other items. In the case of Vilde, the focus was on all the elaboration from the aspect of Linda Vilde and all the updating about Linda Vilde. This work is also ongoing through various contacts, there are no plans to organize campaigns.

 Digitization strategy

About 44% of all collections of the Tallinn Literary Center have been digitized.

The photo collections of the Tammsaare and Vilde museums have been fully digitized, the writers’ manuscripts and correspondence in part have been digitized.

The core collections of both museums are available as a primary entry in MuIS; stages of descriptions are underway. The digitization of over a hundred historical items will take place in the fall of 2021 as part of the ERM joint project.

When digitizing the collections, follow the ranking set by the director:

  • Manuscript materials
  • correspondence and notebooks (in E. Vilde museum digitization)
  • front prints (E. Vilde Museum – in the process of digitization)
  • documents
  • photo collection (fully digitized)
  • a collection of historical artifacts
  • art collection

The necessary technology to create proper digital representations of the museums exists, but considering the performance with the current workforce (1 person who digitizes in addition to other responsibilities of the curator), we have   set our strategic goal to have the collections digitized by 31. december 2023.  In particular,  it concerns the beginning of work with the archive materials  in the collection of the A.H. Tammsaare Museum, as well as the continued digitization of the archive materials of the E. Vilde Museum. The digitization schedule is affected by the situation with the spread of COVID and the orders of the Health Board, which may impose restrictions on working at the workplace.

Procedures for updating museum collections

The director and curator of the Tallinn Literature Center are responsible for adding to the museum collection. Museums are formalized in the information system MuIS according to the requirements. The primary information needed to document the museum is stored by the curator.

Analysis of growth possibilities and storage conditions

The storage rooms of the museums are small, but the historical apartments of Tammsaare and Vilde can also be treated as so-called open storage facilities.

Museums are currently packed in archival cases and are partially boxed. The storage conditions are constantly updated. The warehouses are cleaned once a week, twice a year a major cleaning is done.

Both Tammsaare and Vilde museum storage rooms are characterized by a lack of space. The collection of the Tammsaare Museum is planned to move to the 1st floor, where the gallery space is currently located, after the planned renovation of the building. This should alleviate the lack of space so much that, if necessary, archives and other materials of the Vilde and Undi museums can also be placed in this storage. Also, the collections would be easier to evacuate from the 1st floor in case of an emergency.

It is planned to get a refrigerator for the summer period in the Vilde Museum’s storage room, where negatives and other heat-sensitive materials can be placed during the hot season.

The storage room of the Mati Undi museum has yet to be built. This can be done in 2022 if the purchase and sale agreement for the premises is formalized and the museum becomes a permanent part of the Tallinn Literature Center.

The location of the proposed storage room will be the current museum recreation room. Since the majority of the materials will be archival material (books and other paper material), it is planned to design a large part of the space as an open storage (partially, however, in locked cabinets), which will also exhibit Undi’s works. The museum’s curator and researchers also work in the same room. More sensitive material, which cannot be stored in this room, will be placed in the Tammsaare or Vilde museum storage rooms.

Tammsaare museum’s storage room is located on the second floor and is furnished with metal archive shelves and two wooden shelves.

Museums are mostly packed in archival cardboard boxes. The art collection is stored in horizontal archive shelves. Boxed museums are labeled, if there is a lack of space, the space on the shelves is used to the maximum.

The window in the room is covered with a blackout blind.

A humidifier is located in the storage room, which starts working automatically when the humidity level in the room drops below 55%. The house is more of a problem with air dryness, but in a wooden house you have to take into account the fluctuation of the humidity level. The humidifier is connected to the water system and works automatically. Both the storage and museum rooms have hobo gauges to monitor temperature and humidity.

Vilde museum strongroom is located on the second floor of the museum and is partly furnished with metal shelves and partly with wooden cabinets. Part of the furniture (chairs) not on display in the historic apartment is located on the floor. Museums are mostly packed in archival cardboard boxes. The art collection is stored in horizontal archive shelves. The window is covered with a protective film against UV radiation and a blackout blind. The room has an adjustable central heating radiator, the temperature of which is set to suit the storage room. There is a humidifier in the storage room, which can be used if necessary during the winter heating season.

80% of the collections of both museums are exhibited in historical apartments. In the exhibition rooms, it is possible to check the temperature and humidity level of the rooms, this is monitored especially during the winter heating period, when it is possible to adjust the power of the radiators.  Monitoring uses hobo meters located in different rooms of the historic apartment.

In the Mati Unt’s museum , it is planned to use mainly wooden cabinets and bookshelves, as it is predicted that most of the collected material will be archival material, less objects. There is also a desire to display as many historical objects as possible in the planned permanent exhibition.

Excluding museums

In order to exclude museums from the collection  , a committee consisting of three employees is formed at the Tallinn Literary Center,  headed by the director of the museum. The data of the museums to be excluded will be documented before the exclusion. An independent expert is involved if necessary.

Exclusion of the museum from the museum collection is done by the decision of the Tallinn City Council.

Cooperation network of the Tallinn Literature Center

In 2016, Tallinn Literary Center established a society of friends called Tammsaare and Vilde Sõprade Selts, which includes about 70 people. The society has supported museums in various matters of organizing events, helped museums stand up for their interests; helped to financially support the museum’s ventures. Members contribute mainly through volunteering, but also through donations. A. H. Tammsaare’s jubilee event in Estonia (2018) has been carried out together with the Society; Jaan Kross’ party in Estonia; Part I of the illustrated “Truth and Right” printed and donated to the 101st member of the Riigikogu; rented Mati Undi museum premises to keep the museum open, etc.

The society publishes the title Friend of Classics every year.

In addition to the Society, the most important partners of the Tallinn Literary Center are Kadrioru Park, the Central Government, other writers’ museums (including the Association of Estonian Writers’ Museums), the Estonian Literature Museum, Kadrioru Society, Tallinn Central Library, Tallinn University.

Several international cooperation, training and exhibition projects are carried out with writers’ museums, mutual assistance is provided in the preparation of exhibitions, etc. Cooperation between specialists in their fields (literary scholars, writers) has also developed.