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Tartu City Museum was established in 1955. A large part of the museum’s collection consists of an archaeological anthology on the distant past of Tartu and a photographic collection reflecting the city’s spatial development. As of 2015, the entire collection – including its archive and object collections – consists of some 158,000 items.

The museum’s main building, located near the city centre in the suburb of Ülejõe, is a grand building from the late 18 th century. The building stands out for its interior, including a hall in Louis XVI Early Classical style.

Visitors can learn about the diverse history of Tartu from our permanent exhibition “Dorpat. Yuryev. Tartu.”. The history of Tartu dates back to the ancient stronghold of Tarbatu. Visitors can find out about the medieval town of Dorpat, the havoc wreaked during the Livonian War, intellectual life under Polish and Swedish rule, locally handcrafted items from the 18 th century and the many events linked to the Tartu Peace Treaty. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum has a number of temporary exhibitions as well.

Tartu City Museum has four branches:

a 19 th Century Tartu Citizen’s Home Museum is located in a middle-class citizen’s Biedermeier-style home from the 1830s; the KGB Cells Museum brings to life conditions in the KGB’s remand prison in Tartu; the Oskar Luts House Museum in the suburb of Tammelinn welcomes you to the home of a dearly loved Estonian writer; and the Song Festival Museum provides an overview of the Estonian tradition of song festivals and the role of Tartu in its development.

History of the building
Tartu City Museum is located in the residential building of Lieutenant Woldemar Conrad von Pistohlkors. It was completed in 1790. At the time, its architect, Johann Heinrich Bartholomäus Walter, was the most renowned master builder in Tartu – he also designed the Town Hall and worked in Tartu for more than 40 years in total.

The house was the first stone building in the neighbourhood, which was then called St. Petersburg and is currently known as Ülejõe. The building sat on the banks of the Koolujõgi River. Namely, in this period the Emajõgi River was split into two branches by Holm Island. 19. In the early 19 th century the help of townsfolk was enlisted to fill the Koolujõgi section with rubbish, so the island and the branch of the river disappeared.

At first the entrance was from the Kivi Street. On the ground floor of this two-storey dwelling, built with a stone roof and in Early Classical style, there were eight rooms, an entrance hall and a kitchen, and on the first floor a large hall with adjoining salons. Also, stables and a shed for domestic animals were built.

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The most impressive room in Tartu City Museum is a hall in Early Classical style. The importance of this once representative room is highlighted by its cheerful, festive design. Colourful wall panelling made from artificial marble, the surfaces between the windows, around the mirrors and above the doors and the ceiling feature abundant stucco décor in Louis XVI style. The walls are decorated with figural compositions and trophy bouquets in oval frames, the mirrors are lined with garland-shaped ornaments, the overdoors feature oak and laurel garlands and the mirror frames sport the predominant motif of the Early Classical style, the krater vase. It is believed that the ceiling and wall decorations were made by a master called Kalupka, or Kalopka, who also designed the interior of the hall at Roosna-Alliku Manor.

Owners, residents and tenants

The building remained in the possession of the Pistohlkors family until 1809 when it was sold to Justus Daue, the university’s stable master. It changed hands several times until merchant Carl Faure bought it in 1870. The ground floor was home to a variety of shops and a printer’s, while the first floor had a pawnbroker’s and flats for rent. The square in front of the house was used for horse fairs and cabman stands, hence its name – Hobuseturg (Horse Market). Later the square became known as Henning’s Square, after a merchant named Henning whose house and shop were located on the square.

Estonian writer and composer Karl August Hermann was one of the owners of the printer’s between 1886 and 1940. The Postimees newspaper was printed here for ten years. When Treffner’s private school, established in 1883, was unable to provide lodgings for the growing number of boys in its schoolhouse located in what is today Ülejõe Park, two upper floors were rented out for their accommodation.

Gallery: Tartu City Museum


 

Gallery: A Theatrical Exhibition “Rendezvous in Tartu”

 


Gallery: Exhibition “Viking Era Treasures from Estonia”