Stanford Libraries and Vabamu have launched a new online exhibit, “The Aim is Freedom: A History of Occupations and Independence in Estonia."
The exhibit, which
was curated by making use of Stanford's online exhibit platform Spotlight,
draws material from Vabamu's collection of manuscripts and artifacts and
explains the historical events through personal stories. The exhibit introduces
the history of Estonia during the Nazi and Soviet occupations and describes the
story of the restoration of Estonia’s independence in the 1980s and 1990s.
Piret Karro, Vabamu’s Curator and Exhibitions Manager commented, “With the
exhibition, we can make key objects of Vabamu's collections accessible as well
as introduce Estonia’s recent history in the years 1939–1991 internationally.
Visitors to the online exhibition will learn about the turbulent changes of
power between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia during World War II, they will
learn about the tools and systems that were used to maintain a totalitarian
regime. The exhibition ends with the 1980-1990s by telling the story of the
Singing Revolution and showing how Estonians organized effectively to restore their
independence. The online exhibition showcases personal stories that give an
insight into the restoration of Estonian freedom.”
Students from Tallinn, Tartu, and Stanford helped to put together the
exhibition during their internships at Vabamu. Anna-Kristiina Pae, a student at
the Institute of Cultural Sciences of the University of Tartu said, “Thanks to
this experience, I got a better overview of what it means to work in a museum,
how a project is being prepared, and what cooperation between different organizations
The joint exhibit was the culmination of SUL's and Vabamu's recent
collaborative digitization project, in which SUL acquired digital files of 200
artifacts that represent key holdings of the Vabamu collections. During the
project, SUL and Vabamu produced new English-language metadata for the
material, enhancing global access to the content. The collection is publicly
accessible at Stanford Libraries as the Vabamu Museum of Occupations and
Freedom Key Artifacts Collection, 1939-1991.
Vabamu is the largest active non-profit museum in Estonia. Vabamu’s mission is
to educate the people of Estonia and its visitors about the recent past, sense
the fragility of freedom, and advocate for justice and the rule of law. It was
founded by Olga Kistler-Ritso, an Estonian-American refugee, in partnership
with the Estonian government, to support her wish that Estonia never again be
occupied by a foreign power. Vabamu's Patron, President Lennart Meri, declared
Vabamu to be “Freedom’s House."
Vabamu's team is thankful to student interns who helped with the
project: Karolina Frei and Karl-Erik Laurents from Tallinn
University, Oskar Poll and Anna-Kristiina Pae from the
University of Tartu, and Barbara Florence Sanford and Michael
Byrne Carragee from Stanford University.