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Digitisation projects of documentary heritage ended up successfully

Three large-scale digitisation projects of documentary heritage ended up by giving a public access to many sources of the state-run memory institutions. The Ministry of Culture prepared an action plan for the digitisation of cultural heritage in 2018–2023 (see also the relevant document in Estonian) which is funded by the European Union.  The objective of the action plan is to make about one third of our entire cultural heritage digitally accessible by 2023 (incl. documents, printed heritage, films, photos, and artefacts). As the documentary heritage is large enough, we may count that 3% of the documentary heritage has been digitised by now.

Digitisation process was coordinated by the National Archives, digitisation was conducted by Novian Eesti OÜ (former Andmevara Services). The projects covered digitisation of 6.6 million of frames, the total cost of the project was €1.2 million.

The first digitisation project titled “Let us remain Estonians but let us become Europeans as well (1860–1920)” covered digitisation of 2.7 million of frames. From the collections of the National Archives, there were chosen the records of parish governments (commune administrations) for digitisation. The sources of rural community administrations include a wide range of information about the living on local level. For instance, the lists of welfare, taxation and military servants were digitized together with massive number of correspondence files which expose statistical data and descriptions about the commune schools, health care, military service, assistance of poor individuals, arranging censuses etc.

The following institutions participated in the project: National Archives of Estonia, Estonian History Museum, Estonian National Museum, Museums of Virumaa, Saaremaa Museum, Tallinn City Archives, Tartu City Museum, University of Tartu Museum, Valga Museum, Estonian Literary Museum, Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum, Theatre and Music Museum, Estonian Open Air Museum, and Museums of Haapsalu and Läänemaa.

The second digitisation project titled “Free nation in a free country (1920–1940)” and covered 2.7 million of frames of documentary heritage, including the lists of farmsteads of the census of agriculture completed in 1939, being a widely used collection of the National Archives. Among other memory institutions’ collections, there were digitised collections of folklore, personal archives and biographical lexicon of the Literary Museum, records of schools and city government of Tallinn City Archives, collections of medical science and correspondence of the University of Tartu Museum, the archives of the correspondent’s replies and the postal museum of the Estonian National Museum, and also the archives of the societies and persons from the collections of the University of Tartu Library.

The third digitisation project titled “The archive of the University of Tartu in 1918–1944” and covered 1.2 million of frames which included digitisation of the personal files of students and academics from the relevant collections of the National Archives of Estonia.

Digitised collections were made available in Saaga (National Archives of Estonia), MuIS (Estonian Museums Public Portal), Kivike (Estonian Literary Museum), DSpace (University of Tartu), and in the info system of the Archives’ Museum of Pedagogy (Tallinn University).