Permanent exhibition

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.

Virtual Tour of Permanent Exhibition