The New Object in the Museum

The new arrivals showcase is situated in the University of Tartu Museum’s lobby and introduces the exhibits that are brought to the Museum but are not immediately added to the exhibition halls. The items in the display case are changed four times a year and everyone can marvel at the new objects in the museum for free.

Currently exhibited

A Fox in Colours

On February 28, 2020, the President of the Republic of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, came to visit the museum carrying a gift – a toy fox with the colours of her sorority Filiae Patriae. The fox’s history is fitting for the organisation: It was given to Leida Lepik, an alumnus of the sorority, in 1989 by her academic mother Vaike Pärtsel. Pärtsel had inherited it from her older sister Leida, who in return had received it from her academic mother Agnes Murro-Tammemägi in 1933. 

According to Vaike these foxes were given alongside the sorority colours to all new members in 1933. This fox in colours is considered to be the last remaining of its kind.   

We thank Kersti Kaljulaid and Leid Lepik for their donation

ÜAM 1730:1 Aj

Clay cone with Sumerian inscription, approx. 2140–2120 BC, exhibited in the University of Tartu Art Museum

Professor Gebhard J. Selz’s (University of Vienna) donation to the University of Tartu Museum in 2019 in support of cuneiform studies at the University of Tartu.

From 2144 to 2124 BC, ancient Sumer was ruled by Gudea, who is associated with the renaissance of Sumerian culture and literature. Gudea was the most well-known ruler of the Lagash city state. Numerous statues and texts of him have been preserved to this day. This clay cone carries Sumerian inscriptions written at the behest of Gudea. The text is dedicated to the god Ningirsu, who was considered the defender and patron of Lagash. The Sumerian god Ningirsu was the son of the god Enlil, and the deity of thunder and spring rains, as well as war.  The text mentions the construction of Eninnu (“house of 50”), a temple dedicated to the god Ningirsu. Gudea, the ruler of Lagash, ordered the temple built.

The inscription has a duplicate stored at the Louvre in Paris and is known under the name of Gudea 45 (AO 26686).

KMM A 74

Earlier exhibitions

Christmas ornaments from the White House

The White House Historical Association, established by the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, has been issuing the official White House Christmas Ornament since 1981. All the pieces represent a link to the history of the building either by honouring a former president or an event. While the artist in charge changes every year, the manufacture is done by the same veteran owned and run company ChemArt. The profits go towards education and heritage preservation. The pieces are very popular in the United States and are considered collectables.

The pieces showcased have been sent to the University of Tartu Rector’s Office as gifts by Harry Huge (b. 1937) from South Carolina. Mr Huge is a Charleston based practicing attorney, philanthropist, and venture capitalist who holds a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University (1959) and a DJur from Georgetown University (1963). In addition he holds honorary doctorates in law from Nebraska Wesleyan University (2005) and Charleston College (2017). He is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia, for the state of South Carolina. Since 2017 Mr Huge has been an honorary member of the University of Tartu.

ÜAM 1701:1-3 Aj

National University 100 stamp and commemorative coin

A hundred years have passed since the founding of the Estonian-language university. On the occasion of this significant event, on 19 November 2019, the Bank of Estonia issued one million specially designed 2-euro coins, of which 17,500 are BU (brilliant uncirculated) quality and packaged as souvenirs in commemorative cards.

On the same day, Eesti Post (Omniva) issued a stamp commemorating the jubilee of the national university. The nominal value of the thematic postage stamp is €0.65 and 30,000 were issued. First day covers, i.e. stamped envelope franked on the first day the issue authorized for use, also came on sale with the postage stamp.

Both the commemorative coins and postage stamp were designed by Indrek Ilves.

ÜAM 1698 Aj, ÜAM 1699 Aj

Stones from human body

In the year 2000, due to the renovation works carried out in the New Anatomical Theatre, the university museum received from the Pathology Institutes the collection of stones formed in the human body. The stones had been collected from the bronchus, gallbladder, urinary bladder, kidney, salivary gland and appendix. While all the original labels are attached we still have little, if any, knowledge about the patients the stones have been taken from. There are some fascinating finds, like the bladder stones retrieved from a 12 year old boy or the gallbladder stones which were stored with the following note:

To Mr. Professor Councillor A. Boettcher,

During the dissection of a patient who had died due to bloody poisoning after an amputation, I found his gallbladder thickened with inflammation and almost completely filled with gallstones and I took the liberty of sending the largest two stones to the pathological institute under your care.

I have the honor of being a humble [...] to your Excellency

December 30, 1873

Nowogradok, Minsk Governorate

Pocket microscope with case 

Junior Stille Sweden Imp. Made in Germany

This magnificent piece of equipment, used by Erich Kukk in fieldwork on several occasions, was given to him by a Swedish scientist of Estonian origin called Kuno Thomasson in the 1950s. According to Erich Kukk, the microscope had originally belonged to Einar Teiling. The original set was expanded at the university workshop by Kive Josif Michelson. He constructed an eyepiece holder to which one could attach an eyepiece and an objective with the desired magnifying lens. The “E. Leitz Wetzlar 5“ objective in a case was also added to the set.

Erich Kukk went to study biology at the University of Tartu in 1948 and graduated as a biologist-botanist in 1953, continuing his postgraduate research in the field of phycology, i.e. the study of algae. In 1961, he defended his dissertation The Flora of Estonian Freshwater Cyanobacteria (“Eesti magevete sinivetikate floora“).

In 2016, Erich Kukk donated a large number of items to the University of Tartu Museum, including the pocket microscope with case.

Adder skin, 1970s

On July 13, we will celebrate the 95th birthday of our beloved colleague Tullio Ilomets—chemist, science historian and one of the founders of the University of Tartu Museum.

Ilomets began the conservation of academic heritage in the university already in 1960s. Since the museum’s founding (1976) it has received a considerable number of scientific instruments, laboratory equipment and books from Tullio or at his recommendation.

In 1970s, Tullio Ilomets and his team studied snake venoms, analysing the secretions from the salivary glands of Central-Asian reptiles as well as the venom of the common European adder found in Estonia. The reptile was brought to Tullio Ilomets by an older gentleman from Pedja in Jõgeva County. In addition to extracting snake venom, Tullio also tried his hand at dissecting the reptile and preparing its skin.


A rector's portrait of a rector

Arnold Koop’s portrait

Sculptor: Jaan Vares

Material: patinated gypsum


Arnold Koop (16 July 1922–21 April 1988) was the Rector of the University of Tartu (Tartu State University) from 1970 to 1988, and the university’s history museum, current University of Tartu Museum, was established during his tenure.

Jaan Vares (27 August 1927–16 January 2016) was a sculptor, lecturer in sculpture and the Rector of the Estonian Academy of Arts (State Art Institute of the Estonian SSR) who held the position the longest, from 1959 to 1989.

Jaan Vares’s two portraits of Arnold Koop were donated to the University of Tartu Museum by the sculptor’s daughter Mai Kersalu in February 2016.

Mai Kersalu wrote: “The portrait was made in 1981 (gypsum original) and cut into marble in 1982. My father knew Arnold Koop for a long time, and during the time Koop lived in Tallinn our homes were in the same neighbourhood in Kadriorg: ours on Weizenberg St and their family’s on Koidula St. I knew that father wanted to make a portrait of Koop already back then but they only found time for posing about a decade later.

Father made the portrait (gypsum with a bronze-like tone owing to patination) in his atelier in Merivälja during the summer of 1981. The next year he completed the marble piece as well. Father finished the face, neck and hair of the portrait so as it would look really white and toned the rest of the stone to appear slightly yellow, which, I think, gives the piece a very nice and marble-like appearance. The white marble is from the Carrara quarry, a material that was very hard to come by for the artists in those times. However, more foreign materials and supplies were allocated to be sold to artists through the Art Fund before and after the 1980 Olympic Games.”

The University of Tartu Museum thanks Mai Kersalu.


Stethoscope c. 1860’s

Rosewood with ivory details

Stethoscope c. 1890’s

French physician René Laennec (1781-1826) invented the monaural stethoscope in 1816. Auscultation (based on the Latin verb auscultare "to listen") soon became a popular diagnostic method and the stethoscope itself a symbol of the physician.

Stethoscope, pleximeter and plexor – new diagnostic equipment from the 19th century

Hungarian physician Leopold Auenbrugger (1722-1809) discovered the method of percussion, tapping on a surface to determine the underlying structure, in 1761. In 1826 French physician Pierre Adolphe Piorry (1794-1879) introduced the pleximeter (le plessimétre).

In 1821 Scottish physician Sir David Barry (1781-1809) introduced the pleximeter hammer, an invention that Piorry found unnecessary. It was only after German clinician Max Anton Wintrich (1812-1882) introduced the plexor, a hammer with a hard rubber and metal head, that it became a popular diagnostic device among European physicians.

Pleximeter is a device used in percussion to absorb the energy generated by the strike from the plexor. It is held by its wings and is firmly applied to the observed area so as to displace any air between the pleximeter and the flesh. The plexor is then used to strike on the middle of the pleximeter to create sounds which indicate if the tissue underneath is healthy or damaged. Such information is important for the physician to determine the medical condition of a patient.

Historical diagnostic equipment collected by Estonian medical historian and internist Professor Herbert Normann (1897-1961) at the University of Tartu internal medicine clinic. The collection consists of 49 pieces and was given by internist and cardiologist professor Jaan Riiv (1919-1995), along with his personal archive, to the Estonian National Archive in 1991 for preservation. In 2015 the Riiv collection was moved to the University of Tartu Library, where the archive material is kept, while the equipment collection was given to the University of Tartu Museum on the 14th of May 2015.


Gas cleaning equipment belonging to the UT Department of Chemistry in the 1960s

In order to build the gas cleaning equipment in the Department of Chemistry workshop they used industrially produced items (retort stands, two glass cylinder vases) and made original glass details (screw threads, tubes, taps, etc) on site, as a result of which they created this functional special-purpose glass apparatus.

In the 1960s, the Department of Chemistry workshop was home to longtime glass blower Hans Kruuse (born 1929) and mechanic Erich Ramp (1902–1962). There are several intricate glass apparatuses by Hans Kruuse in the Museum collection (e.g the countercurrent extractor). He also made things on special order, such as equipment used in electrochemistry (e.g the electrochemical cell), which were on popular demand by electrochemists from both Tartu and Moscow.

The Museum obtained the gas cleaning equipment in 2010 when the Department of Chemistry moved from its old building (Jakobi 2) to the new chemistry building on Maarjamõisa campus.


The Order of the White Star, 1st Class, belonging to Jüri Uluots

Jüri Uluots (1890–1945) has a special place in the history of Estonian statehood. The noble statesman was not only an outstanding Estonian politician but also a lecturer and researcher of the UT Faculty of Law. Uluots was the Professor of History of Estonian Law for 20 years, and also served as the Dean and Vice Rector. He became the Prime Minister of Estonia in 1939 and sat in as acting President from 1940 until his death in 1945.

The Order of the White Star was instituted by Konstantin Päts on October 7, 1936 in order to commemorate the Estonian people’s fight for freedom. The Order was designed by Paul Luhtein who created it in the image of a snowflake. Most Orders are have four- or five-pointed ends but the White Star is six-pointed.

Jüri Uluots was one of the first Estonian politicians bestowed the Order of the White Star. Uluots certainly deserved the Order for his invaluable constibution to the development of the Estonian Republic; however, the main incentive may have been his part in composing the new constitution, which came into force on January 1, 1938. The Third Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, which was lasted de jure till 1992, was one of his most significant accomplishments.

The Order reached the University along with numerous heirlooms of the family of Jüri Uluots. They were presented to the University by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who had received them from the Kingdom of Sweden.


The Oettingen family communion linen (1845)

This communion table cloth found in Laiuse church commemorates the grandmother of three professors at the University of Tartu. The linen was made by Charlotta Ottilie von Oettingen (1779–1856), born Buxhoeveden, in 1845. This belle of the St Petersburg ball scene married Franz Georg von Oettingen in 1796.

After the economic crash of 1811, Charlotta and her three children came to Tartu where she sold her jewellery to buy Visusti manor house and ensure her son Alexander a university education. Alexander married Helena von Knorring in 1819 and they had three daughters and six sons. Three of the boys became distinguished politicians (a Governer, the Mayor of Riga and a Lord Marshal) and three – medical student Georg, physicist Arthur and theologian Alexander – were elected as professors of the University of Tartu. Georg served as the Rector from 1868 to 1876 and after that became the Mayor of Tartu. During his time in office, a gas lighting network was established in the streets of Tartu.

This unusual family acquired Kuremaa manor in 1834 and celebrated Alexander’s and Helena’s silver wedding anniversary in the newly finished main house in 1844. The Oettingen family left Estonia in 1939, the communion table linen stayed behind in the family church in Laiuse. From there it made its way to the Museum in 2004.

ÜAM 1304:2/1 Aj


A bain-marie – a basin steeped in pharmaceutical history (1844)

This bain-marie, originating from the UT Department or Pharmacy, marks a time when the Chairs of Chemistry and Pharmacy were separated. In 1844, Professor Carl Christoph Traugott Friedemann Göbel (1797–1851) initiated the establishment of a separate Department of Pharmacy. This is confirmed by the text engraved along the edge of the bain-marie, “Pharm. Institut zu Dorpat 1844”. The bain-marie is made of copper and has a silver-plated casing.

The bain-marie was kept in the Department of Pharmacy until February 20, 2013 when it was donated to the University History Museum.

ÜAM 1544:1 AjM


Cheat-sheet suit (purchased in 1983)

This suit was first used to conceal cheat-sheets at a secondary school final exam in 1986. The suit’s right-hand inner lining contained pockets with cheat-sheets cut to size and arranged in a special system; the left-hand lining pocket contained a table of contents of the cheat-sheets on the right. The suit was used by several people in a first-year biology exam in 1988; the same grey suit passed the exam with flying colours on many occasions. The suit gained its current appearance in 1990 when the inner lining was improved by adding additional stitches that enabled attaching folded cheat-sheets using paper clips.

The unknown owner of the suit probably did not have much need for it since writing cheat-sheets is a very effective way of memorising things. However, the suit did offer a sense of security at the time.



The cigar case of Georg Friedrich Parrot, Rector of the University of Tartu (1802)

This silver cigar case was a gift to G. Fr. Parrot (1767–1852), the first Rector of the reopened University of Tartu (1802), by the Russian emperor Alexander I. This is confirmed by the engraving on the inner side of the lid, “Geschenk S.M. Kaiser Alexanders I dem Professor u. ersten Rector der Universität Dorpat Georg Friedrich Parrot”.

According to family legend, the cigar case slipped out of G. Fr. Parrot’s pocket into Lake Burtnieks in Northern Latvia when he was doing research there with his son Johann J. Fr. Parrot (1791–1841). Years later, G. Fr. Parrot’s grandchild Wilhelmine Girgensohn (born Parrot) found the cigar case when swimming in the lake.

The cigar case has been in the Girgensohn family ever since and travelled with them to West Prussia in 1939, to Mechlenburg in 1945 and to Western Germany in 1948. The descendants of Parrot, Lars and Björn Girgensohn, donated the cigar case to the University of Tartu on March 19, 2012.


Bust of Hermann Walter (1864–1902)

Hermann Walter studied in the University of Tartu from 1884 to 1891 and graduated with a doctor’s diploma in 1892. As a nature enthusiast he took part in numerous expeditions, including fishery studies in the eastern Barents Sea and Novaya Zemlya in 1899 and a research trip, undertaken by polar explorer Eduard von Toll in 1900–1901, the aim of which was to find the mysterious Sannikov Land in the New Siberian Islands.

Eduard von Toll met Hermann Walter on a joint hunting expedition in Hellenurme where Walter distinguished himself as an outstanding shot. He was exactly the type of man Toll needed on his distant and dangerous expedition. In 1900, the search for the Sannikov Land began and Walter worked as the doctor and observer of nature on the ship Zarya. Unfortunately, the young man’s health did not endure the harsh polar conditions and he died on January 3, 1902, while out taking meteorological measurements. He was buried on Kotelny Island.

Hermann Walter’s name was given to four geographical objects on Taymyr Peninsula and Kotelny Island.

In 2011, Walter’s remains were reburied due to the fact that his initial grave in the permafrost had begun to melt. A new grave marker was erected on Kotelny Island, which was a copy of the previous one. The Estonian explorers who took part in Walter’s second burial brought back pebbles from the site and donated them to the doctor’s Alma Mater. The bronze bust of Hermann Walter was donated to the University of Tartu by his relatives in October 2011.