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. The exhibition displays ancient everyday items and reconstructions of weapons used during sieges. The exhibition highlights the first mention of Tartu in connection with a military campaign of Grand Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod, who conquered the stronghold in 1030 and renamed it Yuryev.
When Crusaders took Tartu in 1224, it became known as the bishopric’s centre, or Dorpat from the (Low-German Derpt). The exhibition sheds light on the town’s extensive commercial ties and locally handcrafted items. Various wood, textile, leather and metalworking finds are on display. A computer-based reconstruction called Arheovision helps visitors get some idea of how Tartu looked in the Middle Ages.
The Reformation reached Tartu with the iconoclastic uprising that took place in 1525. The exhibition covers changes in everyday items due to the onset of the Reformation, the havoc wreaked on Tartu during the Livonian War (1558-1583), a silver treasure from the same period and intellectual life under Polish and Swedish rule in the late 16 th and early 17 th centuries, with the establishment of the University of Tartu in 1632 as its climax. Brick buildings from the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age were destroyed once and for all during the Great Northern War when the Russian army blew up a large part of Tartu in 1708.
The revival period in the 18 th century is covered by a display of locally handcrafted items and objects linked to the town’s guilds. The museum hall is an example of Early Classical spirit taking hold in Tartu. The exhibition in the main building ends with a display on the events of the War of Independence and Tartu Peace Treaty (2 February 1920) between Estonia and the Soviet Union while the centrepiece of this part of the exhibition is the table where the treaty was signed. In the lobby there is a scale model of pre-WWII Tartu. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum has a number of temporary exhibitions as well.
Gallery: Excerpts from the Permanent Exhibition
Virtual Tour of Permanent Exhibition
Beginning with April 28th 2018, a new exhibition titled Randevuu. Kohtumispaik Tartus (Rendezvous in Tartu) is opened in Tartu City Museum.
In honour of the centenary of Estonian Republic, Tartu City Museum in collaboration with Tartu New Theatre will be opening a theatrical exhibition titled Rendezvous in Tartu on April 28th. The exhibition shows the budding and development of the young republic, telling a story of 1920s and 1930s Tartu. The exposition features people who influenced the cultural scene of Tartu at that time, for example ther Tuglas’s, Betti Alver and Heiti Talvik, Karin Luts, Evald Rooma and others.
Visitors are able to step into a coeval café, peek into a movie theater and view display windows of contemporaneous shops. The visual experience is fortified by audio clips. A guided tour in English is available via booking.
The exhibition is opened until January 6th 2019.
A number of new finds have been uncovered in recent years that have changed our understanding of life in Estonia in the Viking Age. Estonia is second only to Sweden when it comes to the amount of Viking Age silver treasures – silver accumulated in our region in exchange for the iron sold to the Vikings, and a wealth of it has been preserved hidden underground until quite recently. These silver and iron treasures have been seen until now only by their finders and people who work in museums, universities and heritage conservation authorities. Now the exhibition allows everyone to examine treasures that have been unearthed in Estonia.
Archaeological finds are proofs of their era. The finds displayed in this exhibition have led to new exciting scientific conclusions about Viking Age Estonia. For example, we can boldly say that one of the main Viking trade routes ran across lakes Peipsi and Pskov on the eastern border of Estonia. River Emajõgi in south Estonia was an important waterway used for purchasing goods inland, including Tartu as a significant harbour. The numerous hoards of Arabic coins found in the vicinity of Tartu are a proof of this statement.
Besides trade, the exhibition is about other aspects of the Viking Age, such as strongholds, beliefs and burial traditions. The exhibition is supplemented by exciting excursions and special programmes for both adults and children.