Tallinn University of Technology

The early years

The idea to create a museum that focuses on technology was first mentioned in 1937. Such an institution was considered to work well alongside Tallinn Institute of Technology. Soon a public announcement called for collection of objects and materials, but no suitable location for the display was found. Unfortunately, the fate of the collected objects is unknown. In reality, the long-awaited technology museum was established twenty years later as a sub-institution of Tallinn Polytechnic Institute. This was given impetus by the 50th anniversary of TPI in 1986, which required a representative exhibition of the university's history. Rector Agu Aarna officially issued a directive authorizing the establishment of the museum on March 22, 1971. In order to organize the museum, a scientific council was formed, which included researchers from various departments. At the time, it was emphasized that the museum had to become an institution that correctly featured the history and scientific achievements of TPI in a manner suitable for the era.

tehnikaülikooli vana peahoone

Museum staff and rooms

Aime Roose, a senior laboratory assistant at the TPI Department of CPSU History, took over as the first director of the museum in 1971. The museum started from scratch, so active collection campaigns had to be organized. Announcements were released in the press and materials related to the university's history were searched from archives, other museums, and persons associated with TPI.

The initial collection campaign was successful, and in a short time people connected to TPI and its predecessors, the pre-war Tallinn Technical College and TUT, responded to the call. As the workload in setting up the museum was high, the people involved with the institute were urged to bring objects, photos and documents to the museum on their own initiative. Most of the donations were photographs and documents. At first, the office of the museum was located in a building in the Old Town at Pikk St. 1. In April 1972, three rooms with a total area of ​​92 m2 were allocated to the museum in the building of the TPI library at Lai St. 5. The renovation of the rooms took several years and the museum was not opened until 1975. The design of the exhibition was commissioned from the ARS Art Products Factory and it was completed for the 50th anniversary of TPI in 1986.

muuseumisaal Laial tänaval

After the restoration of independence, the museum was forced to move out from the Old Town because the legal owner of the premises regained possession of the building. In 1993, the Computing Center located next to the TUT campus at Raja St. 15, became the new location of the museum. The rooms with a total area of ​​83 m2, of which 36.4 m2 was the exhibition, were now at the disposal of the museum.  

muuseumisaal Raja tänaval

Peet Sillaots, a long-time director of the museum, expressed hope that the relocation from the Old Town to Mustamäe subdistrict would make the museum a more active part of the university. However, the desired effect was not achieved. Opinions were expressed that the museum should be located in the main building instead because then the number of visitors would increase and the connection with the university will be strengthened. The museum's rooms were small and barely fit the exhibition. The museum objects of various sizes were forced into a narrow display, which did not give the desired effect. Nevertheless, the museum continued to operate thanks to a number of volunteers. According to Urmi Reinde, who acted as the director of the museum in 2000 and 2001, the most active contributors were Imbi Kaasik, Vahur Mägi, Meida Jalast, Endel Uus, Jüri Tanner, Kuulo Vimmsaaare, Tiit Metusala, and Valdek Mikkal.

During the first half of the 2000s, the museum's activities were at a standstill for most of the time. The exhibition was packed into boxes, waiting for better conditions. The situation changed on account of the completion of the new library building in 2008, where the museum had required new rooms. Thus, the museum had finally reached its “home”.

muuseumi avamine

The museum was revived in 2009 with an energetic team, led by director Liia Rebane. The team also included chief curator Ave Tarvas, marketing manager Tiina-Maria Vint and curator Mari Luukas. The museum acquired more spacious rooms and modern conditions. A total of 350 m2 of exhibition space and 43 m2 of storage space were available. An important change was the achievement of modern storage conditions and a lot of work was done inventorying and cataloging the museum’s property that had previously resided in boxes. The exhibition hall Futurum was officially opened in 2010 and the Main Exhibition Hall of the museum the following year.  

muuseumi suur saal

From 2017 through 2019, Tõnis Liibek assumed the position of museum director, and since 2017, Nele Inglist has been managing the collections. From the spring of 2020, Kadri Kallaste started working as the director of the museum. With the staff reduction, the work of the museum has also become more compact. The Museum still has the Main Exhibition Hall at its disposal, which currently displays the TUT100 anniversary exhibition, and in addition to the previous repository, the museum has acquired several additional rooms due to the constantly increasing volume of objects.

Our message throughout the eras

At the time of the museum's establishment, the exposition was subjected to certain restrictions and emphases, which served the ideological goals of the Soviet period. For instance, during the first collection campaign, people who were in the Soviet army during the Second World War were asked to donate their objects and share their memoires. Therefore, materials that had little to do with technical education made their way into the collection. Despite ideological precepts, the main goal of the museum was to tell the story of the university: to present the role of TPI in the development of science and the preparation of higher technical staff, to introduce the contribution of TPI to society and to compile the history of the institutes. The first exhibition opened in March 1973 in the hallway of the Mustamäe Library. The museum played a more significant role in organizing jubilee exhibitions, especially in 1986, when TPI celebrated its 50th anniversary, and also in 1993, when 75 years had passed since the beginning of the provision of domestic technical higher education.

The museum had to go hand in hand with the changing times. The influence of the Soviet era was strongly felt at the beginning of the restoration of independence and the need to cleanse the museum's display from “ideological ballast” and bring it to modern times became apparent. The main goal coincided with the previous one: attention had to be paid to the history of the development of technical education in Estonia, the achievements of the Technical University and the contribution to the everyday quality of life in Estonia. Also, the old exposition did not include many previously unsuitable topics, so certain gaps had to be filled.

muuseumi näitus TTÜ 100

The museum is a small part of Tallinn University of Technology, but its task has always been to tell great stories. Even today, the museum is oriented towards exhibiting the achievements of the university and the history of technical education, while being aware of the development and innovation of technology and exhibiting it representatively, while remaining playful and smart. So far, the museum has offered visitors exhibitions on a wide range of topics related to, but not limited to, the activities of the educational institution. Several successful exhibitions over the last decade demonstrate the ability to reach beyond the university.