22Nov2021

Come Alive inside the Estonian National Museum – Mara (Romania)

One of the things that caught me by surprise since I arrived in Estonia is the way in which museums display their exhibits. All of the museums that I visited so far in Estonia stood out from the ones I saw in other European countries, because they were more interactive, more modern, more digitised and more visitor-friendly. In this post I want to present my experience at the Estonian National Museum (Eesti Rahva Muuseum or ERM) from Tartu.

No matter the place, almost every tourist that wants to find out about the history of that specific country goes to the museum to see an exhibition on history. Usually, exhibitions of this kind present geographical, historical and cultural aspects, such as the origins of the population, national costumes, traditions and customs. However, the key to the visitor’s heart is in how you present these details. The classic method is to collect antique and precious objects related to the history of the country and arrange them behind a shiny glass, accompanied by a panel with plain text and a “Please, do not touch” sign. Considering that we live in the digitalisation era and Estonia is among the top countries when it comes to this domain, the museums are expected to acquire high standards. From my perspective, the Estonian National Museum went beyond my expectations in this aspect.

Even before you begin your visit, you notice the high level of digitalization. Here I found out that the tickets to the museum are not  just to validate your entrance and then keep them as a souvenir, but they are actually your personal translators and save the information of the exhibits you visited even after your visit ended. Just by touching the special signs with the ticket, I was able to translate the panel’s text from Estonian to English and also bookmark it. With the help of my personalized link and QR code, now I can re-read the information that I saved on my ticket anytime I want. Furthermore, once you finish your visit, you can actually  use the ticket as a bookmark! Therefore, beginning the tour with this discovery, I already felt I was going to be very impressed.


Ticket first, bookmark now.

One of my favourite film series is “Night at the Museum”. I was at a young age when I saw it for the first time, so I got caught in the fantasy to a great extent. However, without giving away many spoilers about the films or the exhibition, I can say that I felt the fantasy from the movie while exploring this museum. By starting with the innovative way they are arranged, up to their high level of digitalisation, I really felt that some exhibits “were alive”. For example, in the “Echo of the Urals” exhibition everything is arranged like a story. You explore the historical Estonian traditions regarding marriage by meeting the bride and her trousseau in one room and then meeting the groom and his house in the next room, both of them facing each other from a distance. In another part of the exhibition you can actually experience, due to the very futuristic holograms and the excellent quality of sound, whether you are scared by the bear or you can tame it. This custom is also being linked to the historical traditions of marriage. The whole tour is like a labyrinth which ends with a code that you have to complete in order to magically open the door. This was again one part that reminded me of the film series, due to the similarity with the Tablet of Ahkmenrah.


Exit – How?

In the “Encounters” exhibition, I was again amazed by the way in which the information is presented to the public. From seeing for the first time an old presidential mobile phone to playing with floppy disks and using a magnetophone to speak Estonian, I enjoyed wandering in all areas of the exhibition and didn’t even notice when the time had passed.


Technology from long long ago

Some sections in the museum captivated me with their creativity. From hidden corners to small chambers where you had to enter crawling, each area had a specific touch. For example, the sections accompanied by videos were very attractive. Watching dedicated patriots preparing an Estonian flag shot, interacting with a photographer that took a picture of me using a black and white camera with bellows and with a lady that predicted my future, all of these felt like authentic experiences.


Estonian Flag Shots coming right up!

Unfortunately, I have seen the museum only during the day, but I do believe that it is alive. However, not only the organisers of the exhibitions should be praised, but also the amazing tour guide, Katrin Alekand. When you visit a museum accompanied by an extremely passionate and energetic person who will give much more background about the exhibits, you will not feel anymore the difference between reality and fantasy.

All pictures belong to the author.

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