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Archival Summer School in Käsmu


The traditional summer school "Estonian Cultural Heritage Abroad II" was held in Käsmu on June 17-22, 2008. The summer school is intended for the Estonians living abroad engaged in collecting and preserving Estonian cultural heritage in their countries of residence. The majority of the participants are engaged in archival activities, concentrating on collecting documents and other materials relating to Estonia and Estonians. The participants of Käsmu summer school were volunteers working in the Estonian archives abroad and other members of Estonian communities interested in collecting and preserving cultural heritage from the United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, and England.

 Many of us had already made each other’s acquaintance at Koke summer school the year before. On the day of arrival we had the opportunity of visiting the most famous manor houses (Palmse, Sagadi) of the Lahemaa National Park and other sights (Ilumäe graveyard), guided by professor of history Enn Tarvel.

 Anto Juske, who has published several books on Käsmu, took us on a very interesting tour through Käsmu and its history. Käsmu, a popular and pleasant holiday village, has become famous as ‘the village of captains’ as 64 sea captains have lived there throughout times. The landmarks of Käsmu are typical white wooden houses and enormous stones on the coast.

 The summer school was organized by Baltic Heritage Network (established in January 2008) and its Estonian archives abroad working group. The programme included lectures and workshops on the digitisation of cultural heritage, on legal issues concerning heritage and on the issues of how and why collect the life stories of Estonians. Specialists from Estonian memory and research institutions such as the National Archives, the Film Archives, the Estonian Literary Museum, the Estonian National Museum, Tartu University, and the Association of Estonian Life Stories shared their archival know-how with the participants and gave practical advice. The guest speaker Elizabeth Hawley from the Immigration History Research Centre (Minneapolis) talked about the legal issues of the American archives.

 For the first time ‘an evening of memories’ was held at the summer school where all participants could tell something about their own lives. The topic of the evening was "My First Trip Abroad" and we heard many humorous and exciting stories. The last day was a free forum day where the participants had a chance to talk about the activities and future plans of their institution or community. So far the most extensive Estonian archives have been set up in Australia (the Estonian Archives in Australia), Canada (Tartu Institute’s Dr. Endel Aruoja Archives and Library) and in the USA (the Estonian Archives in the U.S.).

 The summer school ended with an evening of community singing, with Aleksander Sünter from the Estonian Folk Music Centre playing his instruments. The organizers had also issued a special songbook including the lyrics of popular songs. It often happens that people know different songs but they usually remember just the first verse. With the help of the songbook everybody could sing along. We also had a special guest for the evening, Veljo Tormis, and together with him we sang several traditional Estonian folk songs. The summer school was very interesting and educating. It was also essential to make new contacts. Now it is up to us to use this knowledge in our practical work.

 Triin England, member of the Estonian Society of Cologne.