University of Tartu Museum wins the annual award of the global university museums network

Inside cover of the book "A Hundred Faces of the University of Tartu". Photos by Birgit Püve, design by Maarja Roosi

On Monday, 28 September, the International Committee for University Museums and Collections (UMAC) of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) announced the winner of the UMAC Award 2020. The University of Tartu Museum won the award for the photo exhibition and book “A Hundred Faces of the University of Tartu” – the university’s largest art project to date.

The UMAC award committee members commended the nominees’ projects for their creativity, outstanding work with collections, and the variety of technical solutions. They also mentioned the aspects of involvement and the desire to deal with issues with significant impact for the organisations. They said the projects demonstrated excellent quality and noted that there was much to learn from these.

The author of the idea of the awarded project Mariann Raisma, Director of the University of Tartu Museum, says that one of the greatest values of the exhibition and the book is their university-wide reach. “Our goal was to document the present-day university and create a dialogue between the past, the present and the future. Much importance was placed on personal choices and stories that allowed everyone to develop their story-telling skills. The involvement of the academic community was extremely important, because it was their contribution that determined the face of the project. A key figure in this project was the portrait photographer Birgit Püve, who masterfully combined the documentary level with the artistic,” Raisma said. “I think one of the strengths of the project is that this simple idea can be adapted to different forms all over the world,” she added.

“A Hundred Faces of the University of Tartu”, which was a part of the centenary programme of Estonia’s National University, is the university’s largest art project to date, bringing together different fields. The photography exhibition and album portray the top scientists and professors currently shaping the spirit of the university with objects that characterise their personal relationship with the university and their field of research. The book additionally includes the thoughts of the portrayed scientists about the national university, their field of research and the chosen object. The photo exhibition was presented in the university buildings all over Estonia as well as online, to introduce the outstanding scholars to their colleagues, students and the public. Now the exhibition is a part of the permanent exhibition of the university history in the museum on Toome Hill.

The author of the idea of the awarded project is Mariann Raisma. The photographs are by Birgit Püve, and the exhibition and the collection were designed by Maarja Roosi of the University of Tartu Press. The project managers were Mariann Raisma and Karoliina Kalda from the University of Tartu Museum, and Mairo Rääsk, former development manager of the museum. The project was supported by the organising committee of “Estonia’s National University 100”, Rector’s fund, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Medicine, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, and Jaak Aaviksoo, Indrek Ilomets and Alar Karis.

The UMAC award was established in 2016 to increase the visibility of outstanding and creative university museum projects that have a great impact on the community. The other nominees to the award besides the University of Tartu Museum were the Fitzwilliam Museum of the University of Cambridge with the Egyptian coffins project and the Manchester Museum of the University of Manchester with the project of the return of items of indigenous cultural heritage to Australia.

Further information: Mariann Raisma, Director of the University of Tartu Museum, +372 522 1702, mariann.raisma@ut.ee