Fun facts about the Museum

1. The University of Tartu Museum is located in the building of Tartu’s old Dome Cathedral. Other than the church and the museum, only one institution has been housed in this building since the 19th century to 1982. Even nowadays you might stumble upon taxi drivers who are surprised when they discover they have been ordered to the Museum. They believe this building houses a different institution. Which one?

This building was home to the University of Tartu Library.

2. Many people believe that Toome Hill, the home of the UT Museum, is the highest place in Tartu, reaching 70 meters. However, this is not true. Where is the highest place in Tartu?

The highest place in Tartu is located at the end of Riia Street in the park across from the Police Department. This place is approx. 10–11 m higher than Toome Hill.

3. Tartu Cathedral is one of the grandest and most monumental constructions of Old Livonia. Although the cathedral is now mostly in ruins its two powerful western towers remain. It is believed that they are a mere third of their original height. How tall are the towers nowadays?

The towers are 21 and 22 meters high and during the summer season you can enjoy a beautiful view of Tartu from the viewing platforms on top of the towers.

4. Although Tartu Cathedral is mostly in ruins it is not difficult to make out the shape and size of the former church. However, some people have confused the ruins of the old church for another building. What building?

People often think that these are the ruins of an old fortress in Tartu.

5. According to legend, Rector Georg Friedrich Parrot dropped a valuable item, a gift from the Russian emperor Alexander I, in Lake Burtnieks. Years later, his grandchild Wilhelmine Girgensohn (born Parrot) found it while swimming in the lake. What item was it?

It was a silver cigar case, which Parrot’s descendants Lars and Björn Girgensohn donated to the University of Tartu on March 19, 2012.

The same donation also brought the UT Museum J. J. Fr. Parrot’s ring, which is on display in the University treasury. J. J. Fr. Parrot, along with his guides, was the first person to ascend the famous Mount Ararat. The centre of his ring is a lava stone from Mount Ararat with two turquoise gems on the sides.

6. The White Hall of the Museum is home to a tall grandfather clock. Which university building has it resided in before?

For decades the clock was located in the lobby of the University main building. The grandfather clock became a meeting spot for both students and lecturers. No one needed to ask what “Let’s meet under the clock!” meant. In the first half of the 1950s, the clock was taken to the newly constructed chemistry building (Jakobi 3) where it told the time until 2009.

7. The Museum contains a historical lift. What year was it made?

In 1927–1928, the University Library (now the Museum) was made bigger based on the project of architect Paul Mielberg. The staircase was widened, the entrance taken to the south side of the building and in 1928 they added a lift, mostly for transporting books.

8. In Morgenstern Hall you’ll find nine plaster cast antique Muses. What year were they taken there?

The nine Muses – Polyhymnia, Erato, Euterpe, Clio, Thalia, Terpsichore, Calliope, Melpomene and Urania – along with Pallas Athena and Apollo have resided in the University of Tartu Museum building since 1806.

9. Currently, there is an age limit that determines how old you have to be to become a Rector but it wasn’t always so. How young was the youngest Rector of the University of Tartu?

The first Rector of the University of Tartu was rector illustris aka the student rector Jakob Skytte who was 19 year old when he became Rector.

10. To reach the Old Observatory from the University of Tartu Museum you have to cross the Angel’s Bridge. There is a Latin sentence Otium reficit vires on one of the sides of the bridge. What does it mean?

The sentence translates as “Rest restores strength” and invites people to see Toome Hill as a place to relax.