Estonian Central Archives: Ensuring the Preservation of Our Past

Toronto-  In light of recent misinformation circulating about some books that were apparently discovered in a dumpster behind Estonian House,  The Estonian Central Council in Canada would like to clarify its responsibilities and future of the Central Archives, currently housed in the basement of the Estonian House.

The Estonian Central Council is responsible for Central Archives in the Estonian House. The Central Archive exists thanks to decades of volunteer work to preserve and catalogue archive holdings. Much of that work is thanks to the late Paavo Loosberg who (digitized and catalogued the photographic holdings) and Nelli Hubel who directed activities at the archive (and was among the founding members of the Estonian House board).

The basement of the Estonian House, where the archives are located, is not currently an ideal archival environment, as potential risks from water, dampness, extreme heat and extreme cold could threaten the holdings.

Keskarhiiv
Keskarhiivi vabatahtlikud Eesti Maja kohvikus tööaasta lõppu tähistamas 2006. Ees vas.: Johannes Tanner, Jüri Sepp, Nelly Hubel, Virve Mathias, Hilja Suurna. Taga: külaline Eestist Eve Sooväli,Uno Koot, Viktor Virak, Paavo Loosberg, Max Kalm, Vaike Külvet ja Lehta Greenbaum. Fotolt puuduvad Linda Kurvits ja Peeter Kalm Foto: J. Tanner

In light of this and the sale of the Estonian House, EKN has engaged with Piret Noorhani and VEMU to relocate these archives to Tartu College over the coming years. The Tartu College Archives at VEMU are professionally administered and monitored and will ensure that they remain preserved for years to come.

EKN member, Ellen Leivat has been leading this project for EKN and has been in constant communication with VEMU. Former EKN member Tõnu Tõsine has volunteered to develop and help oversee  the process of the transfer over the coming years.

It should be clearly noted, that community members have deposited various books and items at both the Central Archive and VEMU over the past years. The Central Archive is not a library nor a used book agency, and there is limited space and resources. Over the past decades volunteers have processed books that have been deposited, and those that are duplicates or triplicates have been sent to Estonia. Another shipment of duplicate books is due to be sent to Estonia shortly, including books processed by VEMU staff.

With regards to a recent report by Tõnu Naelapea of books being found in an Estonian House dumpster: neither The Central Archive or EKN have authorized the disposal of any of the Central Archive holdings in the past three years, nor is it aware of any such action being undertaken without authorization.

“We have developed very detailed guidelines for the transfer of the Central Archives holdings,” said Ellen Leivat, chair of the EKN archival committee, “and we certainly have not disposed of any books or any other holdings during this process.”

The ongoing reporting of “rumours” and the rampant speculation that’s based on them regarding community organizations, projects and volunteers, threatens our community’s cohesion and the cooperation that has historically helped build the otherwise strong community we have today. The Estonian Central Council calls on community members to refrain from engaging in the irresponsible spreading of unverified rumours and speculation that either intentionally or unintentionally, discredit volunteers and groups in our community. Instead, we should seek ways to support our volunteers and activists and stand together in solidarity.

Since 2012, VEMU has sent the following volume of duplicate books to Estonia with the financial assistance of Rahvuskaaslaste Programm and The Estonian Studies Centre:

2012 - 418 boxes, 5,534 kg

2013 - 233 boxes, 3,362 kg

2014 -  295 boxes, 4,466 kg

2016 - 355 boxes, 4,883 kg

Total: 1,301 boxes, 18,245 kg

When the books arrive in Estonia, they are delivered to the Tallinn Holding Library, where they can be kept for the Tallinn Library or are sent to other Libraries across Estonia. In 2016 orphaned books that were left in the Estonian House basement corridors were among the books sent to Estonia.