General Information

 Address: Vanemuise 42

51003 TARTU, Estonia



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, closed 2014) 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, as well as 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 availale 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 four departments: the Archival Library and its Bibliography Department, the Estonian Cultural History Archives, the Estonian Folklore Archives and the Department of Folkloristics.

The Estonian Literary Museum is old and dignified, yet at the same time it is a dynamic, future-oriented institution; it values traditions, directs and leads positive developments in the field and integrates innovative new technologies into activities related to the preservation of cultural heritage and its mediation to the public.


CEES Centre of Excellence in Estonian Studies





 The history of the ELM began in the year 1909, when the Estonian National Museum and the Archival Library as its subdivision were founded in Tartu. The other archives ot the ELM were also created as subdivisions of the Estonian National Museum first: thus, the year 1921 saw the birth of the Estonian Bibliography Foundation (now the bibliography department of the Archival Library), 1927 that of the Estonian Folklore Archives, and 1929 the Estonian Cultural History Archives. 

In 1924, the Estonian National Museum purchased a private house in Aia (now Vanemuise) Street fot filing archival materials. The collections of Archival Library, as well as those of the later folklore and cultural history archives, were placed there. Today it is the main building of the EKM, to which three extensions have been added.

In 1940, the Estonian National Museum Foundation was divided into two state museums: the Estonian Estonian Ethnography Museum (Estonian National Museum at present) and Estonian Literary Museum. The Estonian Folklore Archives and the Estonian Cultural History Archives were renamed as departments of the ELM.

Between 1946 and 1997, the ELM was the only museum that belonged to the institutions of the Academy of Sciences. During   that period it functioned as a scientific establishment in which the study and publication of materials were as important as their gathering and storage. On January 1, 1995, the historical names of the departments of the ELM as indipendent archives were restored.     

The Estonian Literary Museum produces a yearly almanac- an assortment of articles and source publications called "Paar sammukest" (Some Small Steps). The first issue of which was published in 1949. 

As of 1957, the Literary Museum holds annual two-day conference for researchers of Estonian literature and folklorein December of each year, which were called the Kreutzwald Days in honour of the founder of Estonian national literature. 


The Archival Library 

Phone: +372 7377710   


The Archival Library (AL) was founded on April 14, 1909, as the central research library of the Estonian National Museum. At present, it belongs to Estonian Literary Museum together with Estonian Folklore Archives and the Estonian Cultural History Archives. AL also encompasses the Bibliography Department.

AL 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. According to the decree of the Government of Estonian Republic, AL has been given the rights to act as State Archival Library in 2007.

 The founder of AL was Oskar Kallas (1868-1846) an Estonian folklorist and diplomat.

AL is located in the building of Estonian Literary Museum in Tartu.  The oldest part of the house where AL primarily operates, dates back to 1894; three wings were added to the old noblemen's house in 1962, 1994 and 2013.

As a part of Estonian Literary Museum, AL has been positively evaluated in international evaluation of Estonian R&D institutions in the field of social and cultural studies in 2010.


 AL has organised altogether 26 conferences (1961–2016) of Estonian Book Science where presentations on Estonian book history, journalism history, bibliography history and other topics have been given.


AL also has its own series of publications introducing the library’s collections, "The Treasury of the Archival Library". AL also participates in the compiling of the Estonian National Bibliography ERB (1918–1944).


The staff of AL consists of 17 persons. In addition to the librarians, the bibliographers of the department of bibliography compile the general analytical retrospective bibliography of Estonian periodicals published until 1944, opening the contents of the publications. The reference stock of the Department of Bibliography is more than 2,5 million items.

Restoration and bindery department of AL comprises of a microfilming laboratory, bindery for manuscripts, books and periodicals, and a laboratory for restoring paper artefacts.


AL is an open access library (frequented by researchers, doctoral and MA students, academic staff, by the researchers of ELM, as well as of other R&D and academic institutions of Estonia etc.). Home loans are not allowed, although as an exception, publications can be deposited to other research institutions, libraries, museums, and archives on the basis of a deposit act. Archival copies are to be used only for the purposes of research in case there is no user copy in the collection. Terms of using archival library materials


 AL collects all publications in Estonian and in other languages that have been issued in Estonia, also publications issued elsewhere concerning the cultural history of the Baltic region and Finno-Ugric peoples and Estonian exile literature – books, periodicals, maps, music scores, pamphlets, etc. Special attention is paid to the preservation of the translations of Estonian literature into other languages, literature associated with the Baltic countries, literary heritage of Estonian writers, scientists, scientific associations and societies. According to the report of Project Thule (2000), the collections of AL are the most complete ones in Estonia.

Completion system of AL is based on compulsory copies, purchase, exchange, donations.

A collection of books in the Estonian language (the oldest items dating from 1632; ca 560,000 items) includes 98 per cent of all books and booklets known.  The Archival Library's collection of the oldest publications in Estonian language is the most complete one among the analogous collections in the world. 

The Baltic collection (the oldest items dating from 1543; ca 166,000 items) comprises older publications (books, periodicals) in foreign languages and publications that have been issued outside Estonia, that concern Estonia and other Finno-Ugric peoples and translations of Estonian authors into other languages, or the Baltic states.

The ‘new Baltic collection’ comprises foreign language publications issued in Estonia since 1945.

The periodical collection (the oldest items dating from 1766; ca 73,000 annual volumes) consists of two parts: periodicals in Estonian (comprising more than 90 per cent of all periodicals published in Estonia), and periodicals in other languages (among them are periodicals published in Estonia, Finland, Riga and St. Petersburg).

33 memorial collections include personal libraries of 33 authors and other culturally significant persons. The collections are preserved intact according to the wishes of their donators – ca 90,000 items.

The collections of the Estonian Learned Society (books, periodicals, maps etc) – ca 32,000 items.

The pamphlet collection contains pamphlets, leaflets and advertisement, materials published by societies, organisations and educational institutions, theatre programmes, posters, placards, postcards, calendars etc. – ca 120,000 items

Map collection (atlases, maps and plans of towns of Estonia and other Baltic countries have been the main collection objects) – ca 7,000 items.


BIBIS general analytical retrospective bibliography of Estonian periodicals is compiled of the periodicals issued in Estonia in 1930s. Total of 114000 entries have been entered into the database. The metadata is linked to the database of Estonian Digitised Newspapers (DEA) that is accessible online.

DEA the database of Estonian Digitised Newspapers (DEA) has been supplemented with ca 700 rolls of microfilm with ca 440 000 picture files by AL. The database is compiled in cooperation with National Library of Estonia and with the Academic Library of Tallinn University since 2003.

ESTER http:// AL is a member of Consortium of Estonian Libraries Network. In 1999 a common electronic catalogue ESTER was started. All the acquisitions are entered into the database upon their receipt. Retrospectively, the publications since 1543 are catalogued and information about their exemplarity and distribution is added. Ca 580 000 units have been entered into ESTER by AL. The AL collections currently hold 1080,000 items, 66 % of which have been processed in the electronic cataloguing system ESTER.

ISE The AL participates in the compilation of the Database of Estonian articles.

ISIK database of pseudonyms – 28,000 items.

AL also compiles the electronic catalogue of memorial collections Ca 33500 entries have been made into the database.

GRAFO AL has its own digital library GRAFO where more than 400 publications (mainly calendars) can be found in the format of picture files.

KIVIKE Archival copies of all the digitised publications in the format of tiff files are routinely inserted into the repository; the priority is given to the files of the books belonging to the collection of Red Book of Estonian Publications (1632-1917). KIVIKE is developed as the general digital repository of Estonian Literary Museum, therefore it also contains manuscripts, photos, audio files and other documents on Estonian cultural history and folklore. 


Bibliography Department of the Archival Library

 Founded: November, 21, 1921.

 phone + 372 7 377 712

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 whole reference stock is preserved mostly in the following files:

  •  A systematic file (1821–1944) – supplies information arranged thematically: culture, education, economy, politics, etc. A systematic file also provides information on other countries. The file contains 1,083,700 cards.
  •  A personal file (1821–1944) – supplies information concerning the writings of the persons filed as well as information concerning the persons – 553,400 cards.
  •  A place file (1821–1944) – supplies information arranged according to location (region, town, village, etc.) – 291,500 cards.
  •  File of pseudonyms – 22,000 cards. – Since 2004 has been available on home page of the Literary Museum :

Since 2004  bibliography of the newspaper "Postimees" of 1930ies and several magazines (ca 159,000 entries)  has been available on home page of the Literary Museum :

Compilation of bibliography is web-based  and data base is being completed every day. Inquiries can be made by personal name, place name, subject word, UDK, title or part of title and any word or by registers.


Estonian Cultural History Archives

Phone +372 7377 724

The Estonian Cultural History Archives (ECHA) were founded on April 6, 1929 through the merging of funds of the Estonian Literary Society, Estonian National Museum, Academic History Society. This was followed by extensive collection work. In 1940-1994 the Archive bore the name of a department of manuscripts. To date, collections have been replenished with donations from individuals and organisations, along with materials gathered and purchased by the Archives itself. 

The ECHA is a central institution storing archival material concerning cultural history. It includes the following collections:

  • Manuscripts;
  • Photos;
  • Art materials;
  • Audio and film tapes. 

By early 2013 these collections had accumulated 143, 054 manuscript items (in 345 funds), 136, 262 photographs and negatives (in 213) funds, 3670 paintings, etchings, drawings, sculptures, illustrations and other art materials, and more than 600 items of audio and film recordings.

Manuscript collection. The oldest records in the ECHA date back to the 16th century. The Archives keep the most important early manuscripts, correspondence, and documents of Estonian cultural history (for instance, those of Kristjan Jaak Peterson, Otto Wilhelm Masing, Friedrich Robert Faehlmann, Lydia Koidula, etc.). The personal archives of all of the celebrated literary classics of the 20th century ( Anton Hansen Tammsaare, Gustav Suits, Marie Under, Friedebert Tuglas, Oskar Luts, Betti Alver, Bernard Kangro), as well as the famed linguists (Johannes Aavik, Paul Ariste, Julius Mägiste, Andrus Saareste) are kept at the Archives. The collections are regularly replenished by materials from modern authors (Jaan Kross, Hando Runnel, Paul-Erik Rummo, Jaan Kaplinski, Arvo Mägi, etc). The files of the more important organizations, societies, publications, and publishers (The Estonian Learned Society, the Estonian Literary Society, the journal “Looming” (Creation), the Estonian Writers Co-operative) can also be found at ECHA. There are also numerous historical materials from other fields of culture, as well as from the share of the social and other sciences (church history, politics, social movements, natural sciences, education, journalism, the theatre, etc.) in the Archives. The collection containing biographies of Estonians, regularly replenished through special collection campaigns, is growing at a rapid rate.

The photo collection is remarkable both in terms of its content and historical extent. It contains photographs of prominent persons, as well as places associated with them, immortalisations of events and causes, urban panoramas, buildings of historical significance, etc. The rarities of the photo collection include five daguerreotypes, two ambrotypes and six ferrotypes, dating from the middle of the 19th century, as well as a collection of glass negatives.

The art collection consists of writers’ portraits and book illustrations, as well as a few other items. Also accommodated here are complete art collections that have been donated together with personal archives.

The audio and film tape collection can boast recordings on different media of literary and other events held in Estonian Literary Museum and elsewhere, as well as memoirs of and interviews or TV recordings, with writers and cultural figures.

To facilitate the search for materials, each collection is equipped with alphabetical card catalogues. A special database on memoirs, diaries and other biographical materials has been composed, which is available on location. A general database on all materials in the ECHA is under compilation, as well as a special database on the biographies collection.

The Estonian Cultural History Archives publish the more significant sources found here. It has released a textual criticism on Lydia Koidula’s poems (1969), as well as the letters of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald in six volumes (1953-1979), correspondence between Otto Wilhelm Masing and Johann Heinrich Rosenplänter in four volumes with indices (1995-1997), and an Estonian- German Dictionary by Salomo Heinrich Vestring (1998). Popular series of short publications “Litteraria” and thematically selected biographies of Estonians are also printed, as are collections of literary studies.  


Estonian Folklore Archives


Phone: +372 7377 730

The Estonian Folklore Archives (EFA) was founded on September 24, 1927. The first head of the Archives was Dr. Oskar Loorits (1890–1961), who organized all the Estonian folklore collections into one central depository. The collections of the EFA have to date been replenished with contributions from both professional folklorists and a network of correspondents.

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 EFA includes collections of manuscripts, photographs, sound and video recordings. By the beginning of 2013 the Archives contained 25 folklore collections in manuscript to a total of 1,476,445 pages, a photo collection of 39,313 photographs, sound archive including 180,014 pieces, and 1,333 video tapes and films.

 Manuscripts The earliest manuscript folklore samples in the EFA date back to the beginning of the 19th century and belong to the folklore collections of the Literary Union of Estonia and of the Estonian Learned Society. The most established period in the collection of Estonian folklore is connected with the activities of Dr. Jakob Hurt (1839–1907) and Matthias Johann Eisen (1857–1934). J. Hurt began to collect folklore in 1860s with the help of his relatives and acquaintances, but soon realised that the collecting of folklore had to become a nation-wide undertaking. The 162-volume collection of J. Hurt, the result of his determined activities, is at present the most precious in the Archives in terms of both its content and the exact data attached to a record.

A significant role in the gathering of Estonian folklore was also played by Dr. Oskar Kallas (1868–1946), who between 1904 and 1916 organised the systematic and scientific collection of folk melodies in collaboration with the Estonian Students' Society. The importance of this collection lies above all in the great number of folk songs joined to the melodies (a total of 13,139 tunes).

In the 1930s, the EFA initiated several competitions of folklore collection and, in addition to Estonian folklore, the gathering of material concerning other peoples was begun. Besides oral tradition, the collecting activities of manuscript song-books, rhyme albums, oracles, etc. were started at that time.

Photographs Immediately after the founding of the EFA, a foundation was laid for the photographic collection. The oldest photographs in the Archives date back to the end of the 19th century, presenting the well-known folklore collectors of the time. The photographic collection of EFA includes mainly photographs portraying folklorists and their informants in the field, as well as those depicting landscapes and objects related to folk tradition.

Sound and video recordings The first recordings of Estonian folk music were made in 1912 by Finnish folklorist A. O. Väisänen with the Edison phonograph. In 1927 the phonographs present were brought to the Estonian Folklore Archives, where systematic recording was initiated. In 1936–1938 more than 700 pieces of the best Estonian (but also Livonian, Izhorian and Latvian) singers and musicians were recorded on shellac (reportage) discs. In the beginning of 1950s open-reel tapes were introduced; the first films appeared a decade later. The share of audio and video tapes in the Archives has steadily increased, especially due to the arrival of modern digital technology in the second half of the 1990s. Since then large-scale digitalisation of older sound recordings has been in progress.

The materials stored in the EFA have been divided into series and complete volumes. Several card files have been set up in order to find information from different collections of the Archives. The files of the EFA can be divided into three groups:

1) index files which provide miscellaneous information (the topographical distribution of items, folklore collectors and performers; index files of recordings and photographs);

2) content files of Estonian folklore for every separate folkloric genre: e.g. songs, games and dances, melodies, folk tales and legends, short forms of folklore, accounts of belief and customs, magic spells, etc.;

3) content files of Jewish, Livonian and Russian folklore. 

The current research projects of the Archives concern folk songs and narratives (incl. urban legends), traditional culture of Estonians in Siberian settlements, the folklore and popular religion of other Finno-Ugric peoples as well as digital archiving. The EFA is preparing an academic source publication of folk song in a series Monumenta Estoniae Antiquae, an anthology on the folklore of the Estonians in Siberia. The Archives publishes non-periodical series Pro FolkloristicaCommentationes Archivi Traditionum Popularium Estoniae and Recordings from the Estonian Folklore Archives (sound recordings). 


The Department of Folkloristics (FD) of the Estonian Literary Museum


Phone: +372 7 377 740 

The Department of Folkloristics (FD) of the Estonian Literary Museum (FD) was established in 1947 as a unit of the Institute of the Estonian Language and Literature, a center for publishing and basic research into folklore. Since 2000, the department has been part of the Estonian Literary Museum. In 2001-2007, FD also belonged to the Centre of Cultural History and Folkloristics in Estonia, the first top centre in the humanities in Estonia.

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. We 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. Our 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, we need contemporary source material, which we gather in the course of fieldworks. We 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.

FD is involved in the publishing of two speciality journals - 1.1 Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore and 1.2 Mäetagused. Our researchers act as compilers of publication series of studies in paremiology Reetor, folk belief Sator, of articles on contemporary folklore Tänapäeva folklooristContemporary Folklore and are fequent authors of books and and e-publications.

You are welcome to attend the open seminars of the department (each Tuesday at 12, room no. 234) seminarid, and other academic seminars organised by the department (info available at homepage).

FD is involved with the organising of various conferences, as you can see in the subsection of our events or uudiste rubriik.

The head of the department is Mare Kõiva. Audience on Tuesdays, 12-14, in room 235.