Estonian Archives Australia

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The Estonian Archives in Australia (EAA) was established by the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia on 5 January 1952. The EAA is one of the four Estonian Archives existing outside Estonia and holds an important collection of material relating to the lives and achievements of Estonians living outside Estonia.

Since 1994 the Archive has been housed in Estonian House, 141 Campbell St, Surry Hills, not far from the centre of Sydney. EAA are funded for their day to day expenses by the Council of Estonian Societies, the parent body for all Estonian Organisations in Australia. The staff consists of an Honorary Archivist, Maie Barrow, assisted by a small number of volunteers. The work of the Archive is overseen by the EAA Advisory Board whose members are appointed by the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia and to whom it reports annually.

Aims of EAA include

  • to collect material relating to the lives and activities of Estonians in Australia
  • to collect material in Estonian from all over the world
  • to collect material by Estonians or about Estonia in other languages; and
  • to provide public access to the collections.

The archive comprise mainly published material, personal papers and memoirs, records of the activities of organisations, photographs, sound recordings, films, artifacts, ephemera and textiles. A major part of the collection consists of more than 10,000 reprints of scholarly works by researchers of Estonian origin living all over the world. This represents the largest collection of such material anywhere in the world.

A small but unique part of the archives consists of the records, personal papers, publications, memoirs, artifacts, photographs and sound recordings of the lives, activities and achievements of the Estonians in Australia. These records date back to the "first fleeters" of Estonians who came to Australia in the late 1880s, as well as those of the second wave of migration in the 1920s but the bulk of the material relates to the post WW II immigration. This collection is not only important to Estonia and the Australians of Estonian descent but also to Australia as it chronicles the contribution of the immigrants to the Australia of today.

The EAA collection comprises a library, an archive and a museum of material collected from all over the world. Much of the collection is yet to be catalogued. The library contains books written in Estonian, by an Estonian or about Estonia in any language. A large part of the library consists of rare books published in Estonian prior to independence in 1918.

Some of the more interesting collections in the Archives that have been catalogued include the history of the Estonians in Australia as shown by the:

  • Records of Estonian organisations in Australia from 1912 onwards

Estonian House opening in 1940

Opening of Estonian House Sydney, 1940. Arvid Mielen about to hand keys of Estonian House to Louis Norrak.

Minute Book

Minute book of the first Estonian organisation in Sydney, 1912. Founding members shown in photograph, from left: J Lukats, G Einsaar and A Godberg

  • Records of the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia, 1952 onwards
  • Records of the 22 Estonian Festivals, 1954 - 2007
  • Newspaper "Meie Kodu" from 1948 onwards
  • Individual memoires of Estonians living in Australia
  • A collection of oral histories, on tape or video, in Estonian and English, of members of the Estonian communities in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The Einsaar-Mielen family papers. Gustav Einsaar arrived in Australia in 1896 and was a founding member of the first Estonian organisation in Sydney in 1912. He worked as a miner and lived in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney.

Gustav Einsaar's notebook

Gustav Einsaar's notebook

His daughter, Elizabeth married Arvid Mielen, the Hon. pre-war Vice-Consul for the Republic of Estonia. His son Len rowed for Australia in the 1936 Munich Olympic Games. Letters written home during the trip form part of the collection. Letters from the Einsaar children to their mother give a glimpse into the life of a migrant family in country Australia in th early 20th century.

The Mielen collection includes both personal and business letters, personal documents and artefacts.

Arvid and Elizabeth Mielen in Sydney, 1930s

Arvid and Elizabeth Mielen in Sydney, 1930s

The Jakob Lukats collection. Jakob Lukats was a scholar, surveyor, explorer, politician and founding member of the Sydney and Melbourne Estonian Societies. Lukats made numerous visits to the Pacific area, the first visit was in 1912. His papers include political writings, learned articles, manuscripts of his Masters thesis, manuscripts of his books, correspondence, diaries and maps.

The Evan Lumme collection. Evan Lumme arrived in Australia in 1881 and set up business in Ashfield NSW as a photographer. In 1900 he moved to Orange and spent the rest of his life in that area. On his death he left a collection of 3,500 glass negatives which formed the basis of a book "Faces of Mandurama" published by the National Library in 1997. The collection comprises copies of letters, personal documents and photographs.

The Kristof Kaldma collection. Kristof Kaldma was a prominent member of the Estonian community in Canberra. The collection comprises four volumes of "The Estonians in Canberra; 1948 - 1998", correspondence between K. Kaldma and his war time colleagues, correspondence between K Kaldma and his family, photographs, artefacts and ephemera.

The Walter Poder collection. This very important collection comprises a diary and scrapbooks which describe life as a refugee in post war Europe, the journey on the migrant ship "General Stuart Heintzelman" bringing the first Estonian refugees from displaced persons' camps to Australia and the early days of life in a new and strange land. Contains many newpaper clippings from Estonian, German and NSW newspapers in 1946-1950.

The Johann Tilk collection. Johann Tilk, winner of the Estonian Cross of Freedom, arrived in Melbourne Australia on 28 June 1951on the ship "Skaubryn". The Archive holds 11 volumes of his memoires covering the period 1895-1951. The topics covered include childhood, WWI, Estonian War of Independence, his life as a policeman, the "red years" of 1940-1941, the German occupation, escape from Estonia, life in the displaced persoms camps and migration to Australia .

As well as the international section which contains

  • Records of life in the displaced persons camps in Germany 1944-1952 comprising magazines, yearbooks, school texts, photographs, programmes, childrens and adult literature.

Magazine from Traunstein displaced persons camp, Germany 1940s

Magazine from Traunstein displaced persons camp, Germany 1940s

  • Newspapers published in Estonia, pre 1944
  • Newspapers published in Estonian communities in exile in Sweden, Germany, England, Canada and USA, 1944 onwards
  • Journals and magazines published in Estonia and abroad 1924 onwards
  • Records of Estonian organisations in United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, USA, South America, South Africa
  • More than 12,000 scholarly reprints by Estonian scholars in a variety of disciplines dating from 1921 to the present day. The information has been entered into a database which is also held in the Estonian Academic Library in Tallinn.
  • Memoires of Estonian migrants in Canada, and USA.

The Friedrich Lustig collection. Friedrich Lustig was a Buddhist monk who spent the latter years of his life in Burma. This unique collection comprises manuscripts and copies of his poems, a manuscript of the biography of Karlis Tennisons, correspondence, photographs, articles in Burmese newspapers.

Writings of Friedrich Lustig

Writings of Friedrich Lustig

The museum section contains many artefacts including

  • Flags from organisations in Australia 1927 onwards
  • Artefacts from the displaced persons camps in Germany
  • Estonian traditional handicrafts
  • Memorabilia from academic societies
  • Medals, stamps, Estonian money from various period

June 2008 - EAA has received funding from the Ministry of Education and Research, through the Compatriot Program to restore the flag of the Estonian Society in Sydney "Linda". The Society amalgamated with the Estonian Society in Sydney "Eesti Kodu" in 1927 to form the current ESS "Eesti Kodu Linda". Restoration of the hand painted silk flag will be carried out by conservators from the National Museum in Tartu.

childrens book

Blessing of the flag of SES " Linda", 1927

Three volunteers from the Archive; Maie Barrow, Reet Simmul and Jüri Woan, and Raivo Kalamäe, Deputy Chairman of the EAA Council, will attend an archive summer school in Käsmu, Estonia. The summer school is organised by the Baltic Heritage Network and funded by the Ministry of Education and Research through the Compatriot Program.

EAA gratefully acknowledges the support from the Compatriot Fund

January 2007 - "Eesti laste raamatud", a nostalgic look at our childhood. Everyone who loves books remembers books from their childhood, the books your parents read to you, the books you read yourself, the book you longed to own. This exhibition of children's books covers the classics of Estonian children's literature, the primers and children's books published in the early refugee years. Much discussion preceeded this exhibition as everyone had a favourite book that they were sure had to be included. The EAA holds a substantial collection of childrens books and primers from the 1920s to the present day.

childrens book

Everyone has a favourite book

February, 2006 - A new exhibition in the foyer of Estonian House, Sydney introducing Estonian foods and drinks. Estonian cuisine ranged from peasant cooking to fine dining but still used the same ingredients. Estonians traditionally ate what they could grow, collect, catch or hunt. Magazines and cook books from the early 20th century show how cooks were encouraged to become more health concious and improve the presentation of the food.

December 2005-January 2006 - The archives were open twice during the Estonian Festival. On Dec 28th visitors could view the "Kalevipoeg" exhibition and listen to a talk by Juri Woan on the theme of Kalevipoeg and its role in the culture and everyday lives of Estonians as shown by the many books and works of art and the use of the name "Kalev" in marketing. As well the visitors could view an exhibition "Grandma, why did you come to Australia?" which told the story of life in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany and the journey to and the early days in Australia after World War II. On Jan 1, in conjunction with the Estonian Food festival, visitors were able to view the exhibitions and discover the treasures held in the archive.

scan

Mother and daughter arriving in Australia May 1949

February 19, 2005 - A visit by more than 50 members of the Mosman Community College as part of the program "Travel at Home". The Honorary Archivist, Maie Barrow welcomed the visitors to Estonian House and introduced her colleagues Edgar Siimpoeg, Reet Simmul and Juri Woan. The programme was divided into three parts, each one introducing a different aspect of Estonian culture and history.

Mosman

Visitors enjoying the "Kalevipoeg" display

Juri Woan talked on "Kalevipoeg" the heroic epic poem, the Gunnar Neeme mural in the hall and the new "Kalevipoeg" exhibition in the foyer. The exhibition included a summary of the twenty chapters, in English, with accompanying works of art and a selection of privately owned paintings on the themes of "Kalevipoeg".

woam

"Kalevipoeg" Derisii Woan 1978. HSC major work

Reet Simmul introduced some of our most important and interesting collections and Maie Barrow highlighted the history of the Estonians in Australia through the "Happily Australian but Estonian too" exhibition.

December 2004-January 2005 - The exhibition "Happily Australian but Estonian Too" opened in the ACT Heritage Library, Woden Library, cnr Corinna and Furzer Sts, Phillip on Saturday 4 December and will remain open until 21 January 2005. An additional panel has been created to show the activities of the early Estonian migrants in Canberra and the display gives an overview of 50 years of the Estonian community in Canberra

June 2004 - The exhibition "Happily Australian but Estonian Too" is on display at the Estonian House, 141 Campbell St Surry Hills for one month. The opening is on 12 noon, Sunday, 31 May 2004 . The display reflects the activities of the Sydney Estonian community.

December 2003 - February 2004 - The exhibition "Happily Australian but Estonian Too " opened on 7 December at the Migration Museum, Kintore Ave Adelaide, South Australia, as part of the XX Estonian Festival in Australia. The exhibition, which reflects the lives of Estonian Australians and Australian Estonians in Australia, comprises panels, displays and a video which tell the story of the Estonians who migrated to Australia from the late 1890s onwards, with special emphasis on the activities of the Estonians in Adelaide.. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm and Saturday and Sunday 1pm to 5pm, closes on 19 February 2004.

May 2002 - UNSW School of History and Estonian Archives in Australia held a workshop on "Preserving the Multicultural Heritage in Australia" on Saturday 18 May 2002 at Estonian House.

This workshop included the following speakers, Helen Trepa from the Maritime Museum, Henry Chan from the Australian/Chinese Historical Society, Jim Andrighetti, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Marianne Dacey, Archives of Australian Judaica, Fisher Library, University of Sydney, Paul Convy, Australian/Lebanese Historical Society and Maie Barrow from the Estonian Archives.

These speakers, from different cultural communities, are involved with programmes designed to capture, preserve, and make accessible for historical and other research, the archives of those communities. The workshop allowed discussion about the ways in which different communities attempt to preserve their own archives, and included a visit to the archives of the Estonian community in Sydney.

This event was part of Archives and Record Management Week. An exhibition "Preserving the Estonian Heritage in Australia" was mounted in the foyer of Estonian House to coincide with the workshop.

Holdings

Minute book of the first Estonian Society in Sydney, 1912. Founding members shown in photograph, from left: J Lukats, G Einsaar and A Godberg

November 2001 - Maie Barrow visited the Melbourne Estonian Society on November 25th to talk about the history of Estonians in Australia as part of the history of Australia and how this is is supoorted by the documents found in the EAA.

Maie Barrow at Melbourne Estonian House

The Archivist, Maie Barrow, in the Melbourne Estonian House. Photograph: Toomas Steinberg

October 2001 - The archive has been fortunate to receive funding from the 2001 Community Heritage Grant program of the National Library of Australia for the purchase of appropriate acid-free packaging for photographs and papers.

Maie Barrow with Hon. Peter McGauran, Minister for Arts

The Hon. Peter McGauran, Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation presents Maie Barrow of the Estonian Archives with a 2001 Community Heritage Grant at the National Library of Australia. Photograph: Loui Seselja

October 2007 - The Estonian Society of Sydney "Eesti Kodu Linda" is celebrating its 80th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the Archives presents an overview of the activities of the Society including folk dancing, choirs, theatre, concerts, balls, fundraising, language classes and publication of the newspaper "Meie Kodu".

Estonian Concert Ball 1939

Balls and concerts were very popular before World War II

theatre

Estonian language theatre was flourishing before WW III

Extended until July 2008 - Exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, Harris St, Ultimo

advert Our new home - Meie uus kodu - Estonian-Australian Stories

Stories of invasion, dispossession, and settling in a new home, told by the Estonian migrants who came here as displaced persons post-WWII.

Lorraine Alp, Thirlmere

View online exhibition »

The Powerhouse Museum and the NSW Migration Heritage Centre thanks the Estonian community in Sydney for their generous cooperation and assistance. In particular, the Estonian Archives in Australia and the Thirlmere community.

A joint exhibition of the NSW Migration Heritage Centre and Powerhouse Museum in partnership with the Wollondilly Heritage Centre.

You can also visit Our New Home at the
Australian Communities Gallery, Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo

Image: Lorraine Alp pictured with fruit from the family orchard at Thirlmere, NSW, where many Estonian families settled. Courtesy Wollondilly Heritage Centre and the Alp family

Crown copyright 2006 © NSW Migration Heritage Centre

January 2007 - Eesti laste raamatud", a nostalgic look at our childhood. Everyone who loves books remembers books from their childhood, the books your parents read to you, the books you read yourself, the book you longed to own. This exhibition of children's books covers the classics of Estonian children's literature, the primers and children's books published in the early refugee years. Much discussion preceeded this exhibition as everyone had a favourite book that they were sure had to be included. The EAA holds a substantial collection of childrens books and primers from the 1920s to the present day.

Estonian Childrens Books

A much loved book "Kadakas"

February 2006 - “Eesti sõõgid, Eesti joogid,” “Estonian Foods, Estonian drinks” an exhibition about the eating and drinking habits of Estonians from peasant foods to fine dining. We all remember the food that our mothers cooked but where did she get her recipes from? Estonians ate what they grew, collected or hunted. Old books and magazines show how the housewives were encouraged to provide healthier meals and to improve the presentation of food. Many recipes have been translated into other languages enabling us to enjoy Estonian style food anywhere in the world.

February 2005 - "Kalevipoeg". The Archive holds many editions of the heroic epic "Kalevipoeg", in Estonian and English, and several books showing artworks based on the Kalevipoeg theme.

Many Estonian artists have illustrated various editions of "Kalevipoeg"

Many famous Estonian artists have illustrated various editions of "Kalevipoeg"

This exhibition allows the viewer to compare the old and the modern editions and various artist's interpretations of the theme.

The themes and symbolism of "Kalevipoeg" have been used in art, literature and advertising.

The themes and symbolism of "Kalevipoeg" have been used in art, literature and advertising.

December 2004 - January 2005 - "Happily Australian but Estonian Too", ACT Heritage Library, Woden Library cnr Corinna and Furzer Sts Phillip. An additional panel has been created and the displays have been reworked to reflect the activities of the small Estonian Community in Canberra. On show are photographs showing the living conditions of the early migrants and the building of Canberra as well as newspaper clippings and artefacts showing the contribution of the Estonians to the general cultural and political life in Canberra.

May 2004 - June 2004 - "Happily Australian but Estonian Too", the exhibition is open in the Estonian House Sydney. The displays have been reworked to reflect the activities of the Estonian Community in Sydney. The exhibition opening was held together with the launch of the newly redesigned webpage for the Estonians in Australia.

December 2003 - February 2004 - "Happily Australian but Estonian Too". Migration Museum, Kintore Ave, Adelaide, South Australia. An exhibition reflecting the lives of Estonians in Australia from the late 1880s to the present day. This exhibition is part of the XX Estonian Festival in Australia.

The first Estonians arrived in Australia in the mid 1800s. A large migration, mainly to the eastern states took place in the mid 1920s and the greatest migration came after World War II. This exhibition looks at three generations of Estonian Australians or Australian Estonians and highlights the activities of the Estonian community in Adelaide during the last 50 years.

May 2003 - "Estonian Song". An overview of choral singing and choral festivals from the late 1800s to the present day. Programmes and photographs from song festivals in Estonia from 1880s to 1940, Germany during the refugee years 1945-1950 and from all over the world post 1950.

May 2002 - "Preserving the Estonian Cultural Heritage in Australia" . An exhibition showing the various ways the Estonian heritage has been kept alive in Australia.

On show are minute books from early Estonian organisations such as the first Estonian Society in Sydney founded 1912, the Kungla Co-operative in Thirlmere NSW and the "Estonia" sports club in Adelaide, newsletters from Lutheran congregations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, memorabilia from the scout and guide movements and summer camps as well as jubilee albums from organisations from many states.

February 2002 - An exhibition by the Art and Craft Guild of dolls in national costume. These dolls were a group project prepared for the 19th Estonian Festival in Melbourne, December 2001

August - November 2001 - An exhibition to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the re-establishment of independence for Estonia.

Exhibition

Estonia then and now

May 2001 - Sydney Estonian folk dancers "Virmalised" . The "old Estonians" ie those who were here before WW II started many organisations, including a folk dancing group. Arrival of the Estonians after the war gave it new life and now, more than 50 years later, young Australians of Estonian descent carry on the cultural traditions of their forbearers.

Virmalised performing in Canberra, 2001

Virmalised performing in Canberra, 2001

April 2001 - 50th anniversary exhibition of the Australian chapter of the Estonian University Womens Society.

February 2001 - "Birth of the Republic of Estonia and the short years of independence 1918-1940".

November 2000 - A retrospective of the works of author Peeter Lindsaar on the 10th anniversary of his death.

April 2000 to April 2001 - A series of exhibitions to celebrate the Estonian Year of the Book 2000.

Estonian Year of the Book, 2000

April 2000 - 18th Estonian Festival exhibition, "Estonians in Australia - 300 years". The first Estonians came to Australia in 1696 as part of Willem de Vlamingh's expedition to the Great South Land. Later sailors like Gustav Einsaar came here in the 1880s. Many Estonians migrated to Australia in the 1920s but the greatest influx came after World War II. The exhibition was divided into two parts, - the people and organisations in Australia pre WW II and after WW II.

Activities of Estonians pre World War II

Activities of Estonians pre World War II

Activities of post World War II migrants

Activities of post World War II migrants

March 2000 - An exhibition of rare books found in the archive.

October 1999 - "Meie Kodu" 50th anniversary exhibition. A display of correspondence, photographs, articles and ephemera highlighting the events and the people who have been associated with the newspaper.

June 1999 - An exhibition of photographs, memoirs, diaries, books and medals to celebrate Victory Day.

June 1998 - "The War of Independence" 1918-1920 an exhibition of medals, photographs, maps, memoirs and artefacts.

November 1997 - Exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Sydney Estonian Society "Eesti Kodu Linda". The Society was formed by the amalgamation of two Estonian societies "Eesti Kodu" and "Linda". On display was the flag of the Sydney Estonian Society "Linda" and the Estonian and Australian flags used at the opening of Estonian House.

Blessing of the flag of SES " Linda", 1927

Blessing of the flag of SES " Linda", 1927

50 years of work on "Meie Kodu"

50 years of work on "Meie Kodu"

June 1996 - "Down Memory Lane" an overview of the activities of Estonians in Australia including the newspaper "Meie Kodu", scholarly works, literature, music, theatre, youth activities such as language schools, scouts and guides and sport.

Down memory lane - Estonian exhibition

View of exhibition

June 1996 - Exhibition of photographs and newspapers relating to Victory Day and World War II

The National Archives of Estonia - This is the homepage of the National Archives of Estonia in English. (Rahvusarhiiv) is a government agency which was founded on the basis of the Archives Act in 1999 by reorganizing the public archives services. The National Archives is a system of state owned public archives, including 13 archives in different locations of Estonia, and acts under the administration of director general, who resides in Tartu. The National Archives is a subordinate agency to the State Chancellery.

The National Archives insures the preservation of information reflecting the change and alteration of the Estonian society and safeguards access to it. The National Archives aids ensuring continual and purposeful legal environment for the Estonian public sector, government, and local authorities.

Archival Links

National Archives of Australia - The National Archives encourages community awareness and use of valuable Commonwealth records.

Baltic Heritage Network - The Baltic Heritage Network is a multilingual electronic gateway to rally information on the archival collections and cultural heritage of Baltic diaspora with the aim of ensuring access to relevant information.

Articles and Papers about the Archive

Estonian Archives in Australia – a Treasure Chest for Everyone - A paper from the International Conference on the Baltic Archives Abroad, 2006.

Talk to Multicultural Documentary Heritage Workshop - Estonian Archives in Australia – case study with Maie Barrow at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, ACT, Jun 2004.

Precious, Unique and Fragile, Conserving our grass roots history - Diana Giese discovers the ways in which some recipients of Community Heritage Grants have used their funds to preserve our history and heritage, 2003

Damned from the start, now home from home - Article on Post-WWII migrants by Peter Munro, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in Sep 2002.