03 Sep 2010

Estonian Literary Museum (ELM)

The Estonian Literary Museum is a state institution of research and development, operating in the area of government of the Ministry of Research and Education. The Estonian Literary Museum was created on the basis of the Archival Library (founded in 1909, up to that date belonging to the Estonian National Museum), the Estonian Bibliography Foundation (founded in 1921), the Estonian Folklore Archives (founded in 1927) and the Estonian Cultural History Archives (founded in 1929) on the decision of the Council of People’s Comissars of the Estonian SSR (RT 1940, 109, 1105) on September 11, 1940. In 2000 the Department of Folklore (founded in 1947) and the Department of Ethnomusicology (founded in 1979) that until then used to belong to the Institute of the Estonian Language were merged with the Estonian Literary Museum. In the years 1946-1997 the Literary Museum belonged to the structure of the Estonian Academy of Sciences as one of its divisions.

The Estonian Literary Museum is a leading centre for Estonian Studies in Estonia; its aims include the preservation of Estonian language and culture, advancement of Estonian Studies and participation in international research and development activities.

The main activities of the Estonian Literary Museum include:

  • basic and applied research mainly in the fields of folklore and the study of religions

  • research into literature, art and culture, cultural history, life writing, ethnomusicology and bibliography

  • participation in the respective research and development activities in the field

  • strategic and systematic collection, long-term preservation and scholarly study of Estonian intangible cultural heritage

  • making available the results of the scholarly research as well as source materials of the intangible cultural heritage in scholarly, educational and popularising publications as well as in mediation by digital environments and as a public service.


The Estonian Literary Museum functions as an integrated institution that consists of six departments:

The Archival Library and its Bibliography Department

  • The Archival Library is the only research library in Estonia that has been created specially for the aim of collecting, preserving, and making available for researchers the publications (i.e., all printed documents) in Estonian and those concerning Estonia in foreign languages. Its aim is to obtain the most complete collection possible to be preserved as national heritage according to the requirements of UNESCO and IFLA.

  • The Department of Bibliography comprises the general analytical retrospective bibliography of Estonian periodicals published until 1944, opening the contents of the publications. At the beginning of 2004 the extent of the reference stock of the department was 2,311,000 items.


The Estonian Cultural History Archives

  • The ECHA is a central institution storing archival material concerning cultural history. It includes the following collections: Manuscripts, Photos, Art materials, and Audio and film tapes.


The Estonian Folklore Archives

The EFA functions as a central folklore archive in Estonia which also carries out research projects on folklore both independently and in co-operation with other scientific institutions. In addition to Estonian material, the scope of the Archives covers the folklore of other peoples, mainly that of the Finno-Ugrians (Livonian, Votic, Finnish, Izhorian, Karelian, Vepsian, Mordvinian, Mari, Komi, Udmurt, Khanty, Hungarian material) and other peoples living in Estonia or its vicinity (Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, German, Jewish, Swedish, Gypsy material).

The Department of Folkloristics

  • The work of the FD is aimed at introducing Estonian folklore and folkloristics both home and abroad, internationally. Our main activities lie in the research of various folklore genres like figurative speech, folk narratives and folk belief. They analyse the expressions and contexts of folklore in new media, the nature and functions of humour in culture and popular folk knowledge of astronomy, botanics and medicine. Taking an interdisciplinary approach has been a conscious choise in the development of the department.

  • Subjects of study are tackled by scholars who have been schooled in fields of folkloristics, linguistics, archaeology, semiotics, astronomy and botanics. To study contemporary phenomena, they need contemporary source material, which they gather in the course of fieldworks.

  • They have also used materials in Estonian archives to compile digitised data bases of folk narratives, paremiological material, belief accounts and historical tradition. These provide a nice comparative background for contemporary folklore and widen the time scope of study material.

  • FD also participates in international cooperation networks and joint projects.


The Department of Ethno-musicology

  • The department's subject fields are collecting, researching, publishing and promoting estonian and its related ethnic groups‘ folkmusic. Folklore is being researched in a more general social- and culture anthropological context. In the course of fieldworks the changes in tradition are being observed (for example on the island of Kihnu, Setumaa, Mulgimaa etc.) and supplementary material for current researches and publications are being collected. Besides the historical phenomenons, secondary traditions and contemporary festivities are also fixated and researched.

  • Modern-day audio- and video recording technology has created possibilities for more adequate recordings of folkmusic in the live presentation situation. Besides music, also games and dances are recorded.

  • Collected material has been used besides researches and publications also for music records, cassettes, tv-programs and films.


The Administrative Department


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