In an upcoming series of blog posts, ALHFAM President, Dr. Debra Reid, updates us on her travels and experiences across the pond in Estonia:
Coming to you from Tallinn, Estonia, 22:31 Estonia time; 14:31 Central Daylight Time
In 1998 I attended my first congress of the International Agriculture Museums Association (AIMA) in Poznan, Poland. Fifteen years later I sit in a hotel in the Old Town section of Tallinn, Estonia, preparing to head across the country to Tartu, for the AIMA presidium (board) meeting at the Estonian Agricultural Museum. Today I visited the Estonian Open Air Museum near Tallinn to learn a bit about the country’s agricultural past. I started with the buildings collected from the southeastern part of the nation (the region where the Agricultural Museum is situated). I talked with the interpreter and admired the furnishings in the Sepa Farm which included a photograph of the blacksmith-farmer and his family. After walking around the entire museum, I found one pig and a fine garden at the Pulga farm from northern Estonia. But I learned the most when I walked into the cattle shed at the Sassi-Jaani farm (western Estonia). There I saw large-scale reproductions of historic photographs depicting pigs, sheep and cattle, all being tended by farm women. Staff had these images mounted on the walls of the historic shed, and had a clear plexi-glass cut-out of the animal in the image (a dairy cow in the cow shed, sheep in the sheepcote, and images of pigs at a trough in the pigsty). The rooms in the shed housed only these images, cutouts, and interpretive labels. It cost little but the time to clean the spaces and maintain the exhibits (all easily disassembled for storage during the closed season). They made such a difference in helping the non-farming audience get a sense of the space livestock took, and the close relationship that existed between animal and human in Estonia during the late-nineteenth century. I can hardly wait to learn more tricks to make agricultural history more relevant to the urban museum visitor. The topic tomorrow – gardens.