Research group: Terje Anepaio, Pille Runnel

In last years one of the priorities, according to the needs of permanent exhibition production, was studying contemporary and recent society and culture. When, in earlier periods, the research initiatives were largely related to the study of the Soviet period, in the second half of the 2000s study was extended to the most immediate past. Visitors to the Encounters permanent exhibition first arrive at the part of the exhibition dealing with the societal and cultural changes of the past 25 years. This exhibition area enabled the ENM to collaborate with several research institutions and innovation centres, including the Chair of Human Geography and Regional Planning at the University of Tartu, the Mektory innovation centre at Tallinn University of Technology, and Tartu Observatory, making the research work interdisciplinary in its widest sense.

Researchers explored changes in religious life (fieldwork and collecting activities 2011-2016), and everyday life in different regions of Estonia (fieldwork on Vormsi and Kihnu islands, and in eastern and north-eastern Estonia) studying the impact of the land use reforms (2012). Studies of the historical and contemporary mobility of Estonians (fieldwork in Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States), are on-going and will be continued both as a direction in museological documentation and as theoretically based research rooted in international mobility and migration studies. Given the global-scale changes, involving increasing attention to human mobility, the museum has to tackle this process by extending its work regarding migration not limiting it only to Estonians. This research direction also needs collaboration between other research institutions.

The studies of the Soviet area continue, with a focus on memory and memorisation processes, preserving the memories of victims of the Soviet period, i.e. those who were repressed or deported. In the field of memory studies, analysis of the memory work of the community of the repressed and audiovisual documentation will continue. Collaboration with NGOs that have given positive feedback on the produced documentary on commemoration practices of former deportees will also continue.

At the end of the 1990s the ENM joined the national Great History Project, collecting testimonies of Stalinist prison camps, and narratives of the lives of the deported and of forced migration. A method using open-ended questionnaires distributed to a network of respondents of the ENM was developed into a life writing methodology within the discipline of ethnology during the 1990s. The the Soviet area studies also the documentation work with a focus on archival material has also covered the shortages of goods, and consumer culture, during the Soviet period (2011), as well as changing childhood (2011) and everyday life in the Soviet countryside (visual anthropological fieldwork 2014-2016).

In 2016 a project titled 1987-2000: Breaking Point or Leaping Off, financed by the State Chancellery started at the ENM with the goal of initiating a large-scale action of collecting contemporary culture in Estonian museums. On the one hand this can be seen as the ENMs initiative to bring Estonian museums together to a major jointly structured collecting activity. On the other hand this initiative enables ethnological analysis of the 1990s transition period in Estonia, so far approached primarily by sociologists and media scholars, applying quantitative research approaches in order to study structural levels of the transition society while focusing less on the personal experiences and everyday life of the period.

Studying contemporary and recent society and culture in the museum context poses several methodological challenges as the methodologies applied historically are not always more suitable from either the museological and social studies point of view, as all the collection methods have not followed the critical disciplinary evolution. Thus, ethnological, anthropological and ethnographic archives are sometimes regarded, though not always in a justified way, as archives of disciplinary history. At the same time, carrying out research in the museum is an opportunity for methodological innovation; the recent period at the ENM has involved introduction of experimental approaches, some of which, after thorough analysis, will be applied in future research on recent and contemporary society and culture.

These novel, experimental approaches were applied in exhibition projects related to the development of the Exhibition Lab (an exhibition space that served as a test site for upcoming permanent exhibitions). This involved research on contemporary consumer culture (the Shopping Fever exhibition on consumption practices of the 1990s and 2000s) and contemporary youth and child culture which resulted in the #Chillingaroundtown exhibition and later part of the permanent exhibition at the new ENM building. The latter research project also involved an interdisciplinary edited collection of articles dealing with contemporary youth cultures and a sociological look at global youth (Hopeless Youth, eds. Francesco Martinez, Pille Runnel) and a related postgraduate summer school organised jointly with the University of Tallinn.

#Chillingaroundtown was about growing up in cities and the ways the younger generation creates its urban experiences through quotidian practices, starting with the localised experiences of children and finishing with young adults, who simultaneously move in physical, local, digital, global spaces. The team of researchers and curators set out to grasp everyday urban life through the eyes of children and young people only. The decision was to involve youth and children in the production process and not to link this exhibition with the existing museum collections, making the voice of young people more central to the process rather than engaging them later with education programs and side projects for a ready-made exhibition, as would be the usual way to organise this work. The process followed a strand of current youth and child research in which studying children has been replaced with studying with children. The participatory approach challenges traditional social research, in which the information acquired from the children themselves was considered of secondary importance. More recently, across different disciplines, a change has indeed been taking place, with children emerging as a key source for understanding the dynamics of their everyday lives. Willing to acknowledge both research and cultural participation aspects of the project, the team decided to adopt an experimental multi-method and multi-site approach according to which children and young people as research subjects would be approached similarly to adults, while acknowledging that they have different communication skills from grownups and possess different competencies and engage in different modes of communication, such as telling tales, writing stories, drawing pictures or taking photos. The whole process served as a tool for empowerment, giving a voice to the research subjects and placing the power of discovery into their hands. This study provided ground for further systematic application of art-based methods at the museum, which were used for studying different societal and cultural groups.



Eesti 1987-2000 (Estonian State Chancellery, 2015-2018, principal investigator Külli Lupkin). Research staff: Pille Runnel, Anu Kannike, Kristel Rattus, Agnes Aljas, Terje Anepaio, Anu Järs, Marleen Metslaid, Karin Leivategija


Living together with difficult memories and diverse identities (ERA.Net RUS Plus, 2015-2017, principal investigator Kirsti Salmi-Niklander). Research staff: Terje Anepaio



2011 Ostupalavik. Tarbimiskultuur 1990.-2000. aastatel / Shopping Fewer, Consumer Culture in Estonia in the 1990s and 2000s, curators Pille Runnel, Ehti Järv

2012. Participatory exhibition Kahetsetud ost: korterist ennustuseni / Regretted purchase: from apartment to foretelling, curator Ehti Järv

2012. Participatory exhibition Kuidas ese prügimäele sattus/How things became trash, curators Ehti Järv, Kaspar Jassa, cooperation with Tartu Environmental Education Centre 60

2012. DVD Documentary Meie mäletame! Meie mälestame!. / We remember! We Commemorate!, authors Terje Anepaio, Maido Selgmäe, Tartu: Estonian National Museum

2013. Nõukogude lillelapsed: 70ndate psühhedeelne underground / Soviet hippies: the psychedelic underground of 1970s, curators Terje Toomistu, KIWA

2013. DVD Documentary Eesti Rahva muuseumi välitööd: Avinurme 2012. Elulaad/Way of life, authors Ellen Värv, Maido Selgmäe, Tartu: Estonian National Museum

2014 Kellu ja kitarriga. Eesti Üliõpilaste Ehitusmaleva töösuved / With a Trowel and a Guitar. Working Through the Summer in the Estonian Students' Construction Brigade, curators Terje Anepaio, Terje Lõbu, Reet Ruusmann, cooperation with University of Tartu Museum, Pärnu Museum, Estonian Folklore Archives

2014 #Niisama linnas / #Chillingaroundtown, curators Ehti Järv, Kadri Kallast, Pille Runnel

2014. 1944. Meri läände / 1944. Sea to the west, curators Riina Reinvelt, Maido Selgmäe, in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Research

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Vabaduste aeg / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. Time of Freedoms, curators Pille Runnel, Agnes Aljas, Ehti Järv, Karin Leivategija, Marleem Metslaid, Taavi Tatsi, Rein Ahas (University of Tartu), Marko Uibu (University of Tartu)

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Elu raudse eesriide taga / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. Life Behind the Iron Curtain, curators Ellen Värv, Terje Anepaio, Anu Järs, Reet Mark, Reet Piiri, Riina Reinvelt, Reet Ruusmann (University of Tartu)

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Paralleelilmad / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. Parallel Worlds. Parallel Lives, curators Terje Anepaio, Anu Järs, Riina Reinvelt, Maido Selgmäe, Ellen Värv, Reet Ruusmann (University of Tartu)

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Linnad linnas / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. Cities within a City, curators Pille Runnel, Ehti Järv, Kadri Kallast (University of Tartu)

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Oma ase / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. My Own Abode, curators Anu Järs, Anu Kannike, Karin Konksi



Järs, A. (2010). Pererahvas ja puhkajad. Pärnu nõukogudeaegne suvituselu majutajate silme läbi. In: Eesti Rahva Muuseumi aastaraamat, nr 53, 55−81.

Järs, A. (2010). Traditsiooniline taluarhitektuur ja elamiskultuur. In: Pärnumaa. Loodus, aeg, inimene, Tallinn: Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 449−464.

Anepaio, T. (2010). Eesti mäletab!? Repressiooniteema retseptsioon Eesti ühiskonnas. In: Oksanen, S.; Paju, I. (eds.). Kõige taga oli hirm. Kuidas Eesti oma ajaloost ilma jäi, Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, 419-439.

Järs, A. (2011). Der Alltag einer Kurstadt. Das Leben in der Sommerfrische Pärnus während der Sowjetzeit aus der Perspektive der Einheimischen. In: Nordost-Archiv. Zeitschrift für Regionalgeschichte, 20, 220-250.

Anepaio, T. (2011). Heinrich Uustalu - Between the Cogwheels: Stigmatised Family Relations in the Life Story of a Repressed Man. In: Kõresaar, E. (ed.). Soldiers of Memory: World War II and Its Aftermath in Estonian Post-Soviet Life Stories, Amsterdam/New York, NY 2011: Rodopi, 385-408.

Runnel, P., Järv, E. (2012). Ostupalavik. Shopping fever. Tartu: Estonian National Museum.

Kõresaar, E., Anepaio, T. (2015). Indiviidi rollist kodanikualgatuslikes mälestamispraktikates: stalinlike massirepressioonide komemoratsioon 21. sajandil. In: Eesti Rahva Muuseumi aastaraamat, vol 58, 58-85.

Martinez, F., Runnel, P. (2015). Hopeless Youth. Tartu: Estonian National Museum.