History of the Archive
The Estonian Archives in Australia (EAA) was established by the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia on 5 January 1952.
The first archivist was Alexander Peel, a year later Dr Hugo Salasoo was appointed as the archivist, a position he held for nearly 40 years. He was succeeded by his son, Dr Inno Salasoo.
The Archive started life in Estonian House Sydney where as it grew in size, it moved from one place to another.
Finally, Dr Hugo Salasoo took the archives into his own home and he later built a fireproof building on his own property to house the collection. The Archive remained there after his death until the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia decided to move it to the Sydney Estonian House.
Following the move of the Archive from Dr Salasoo’s house, Maie Barrow was appointed as the archivist.
Since 1994 the Archive has been housed in Estonian House, 141 Campbell St, Surry Hills, not far from the centre of Sydney. EAA is funded for day to day expenses by the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia, the parent body for Estonian organisations in Australia and by donations from the public. 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 Council whose members are appointed by the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia and to whom it reports annually.
At this stage the Archive contained much international material, newspapers, including newsletters, books, scientific papers, personal documents and photographs from Estonians all over the world.
The archival material was not sorted or documented so began the long process of sorting into categories in order to organise the collection systematically and make available to others.
The year was mainly spent:
- dividing the material into two parts (the archives and the library),
- rearranging the library,
- getting to know the collection.
Ivi Eenmaa, the director of the National Library in Estonia, visited the Archive and provided advice on how to deal with the collection.
Back: Uino Simmul, Viki Valk, August Kangro, Kenn Oidermaa, Raivo Kalamäe
Front: Anne Reet Kimmel, Maie Barrow, Ivi Eenmaa, Lea Holm
The Archive received a grant from the National Preservation Office to have a preservation survey done.
Maie Barrow and Hon. Michael Lee, Minister for Communications and the Arts.
The Archive was opened to visitors and researchers, bought its first computer and held the first exhibition “Down Memory Lane”.
In June the volunteers also put up a small display for Victory Day of material relating to the War of Independence and World War I.
In August the archivist Maie Barrow, Reet Simmul and Raivo Kalamae attended a meeting of archivists in the National Library in Tallinn.
The archivist was invited to speak to the Canberra Estonian Society about the work of the Archive. This year the Estonian Society of Sydney celebrated its 70th anniversary and the Archive with help from the Society, curated an exhibition to celebrate the occasion.
The outreach program continued with visits to the Estonian Retirement Village in Thirlmere. The program of recording oral histories and encouraging the writing of memories continued. The Archive received a valuable collection of material from Kris Kaldma who recorded the activities and achievements of the Canberra Estonians in a 4 volume work entitled “The lives and activities of Estonians in Canberra 1947-1994“. Discussions were held with the family of Jakob Lukats, a founding member of the first Estonian organisation in Australia, to acquire his extensive archives.
The collection of memoirs and autobiographies grew.
The Archive acquired a display case which stands in the foyer of Estonian House. This allowed the Archive to exhibit more of its treasures in safety.
The newspaper “Meie Kodu” celebrated its 50th anniversary and on this occasion EAA mounted an exhibition of its history. As an acknowledgement of the occasion, the State Library of NSW presented the Archive with a microfilm of the first 50 years of published newspapers.
Alan Ventress, Uino Simmul and Maie Barrow
The archivist flew to Wellington New Zealand to acquire the papers of Jakob Lukats which his family have placed in the Archive on permanent loan.
On another occasion, the archivist visited Adelaide where she spoke on Estonian radio, and held an “archives clinic” in Estonian House where people could bring items and get advice on their identification and preservation.
The year saw many researchers using the collections. Anne Valmas from the Academic Library, Tallinn researched the works of expatriate Estonian authors and journalist Tiit Lääne researched the achievements of expatriate sportsmen. Ann Tündern Smith used the collections to research Estonians who arrived on the General Stuart Heintzelman, the ship which brought the first post WWII government sponsored immigrants to Australia.
The highlight of the year was the exhibition “Estonians in Australia – 300 years” which was held in Lithuanian House during the XVIII Estonian Festival. Smaller exhibitions were held to celebrate the “Estonian Year of the Book”.
This was the year for many small exhibitions in the new display cabinet ranging through books, folk dancing, academic societies, handicrafts and the 10th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia regaining independence. 100 years since Dr Hugo Salasoo’s birth, was marked with an exhibition of material collected during his time as the archivist.
The Archive was 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.
The Hon. Peter McGauran, Minister for the Arts and Maie Barrow, October 2001. Photograph: Loui Seselja
The preparation of catalogues has been greatly helped by the purchase of a new computer.
In November the archivist Maie Barrow visited the Melbourne Estonian Society to talk about the history of Estonians in Australia as part of the history of Australia and how this is supported by the documents found in the EAA.
Photo: Paavo Järvi (centre) visits the Archive with Reet Simmul (right), 24 July 2001
In January this year the Archive celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In May, the UNSW School of History and Estonian Archives in Australia held a workshop on “Preserving the Multicultural Heritage in Australia” 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.
Photo: From left in photograph J Lukats, G Einsaar and A Godberg
The Archive held discussions with the Migration Museum in Adelaide about the possibility of mounting an exhibition there in December 2003 to coincide with the XIX Estonian Festival.
The exhibition “Happily Australian but Estonian Too” opened on 7 December, 2003 at the Migration Museum, Kintore Ave Adelaide, South Australia, as part of the XIX Estonian Festival in Australia. The exhibition, which reflected the lives of Estonian Australians and Australian Estonians in Australia, comprised panels, displays and a video which told 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 was open every day and ran until 19 February 2004.
The Friends of the Museum of Sydney and members of the Royal Australian Historical Society visited the Archive.
Maie Barrow (left) with Dr Natalia Barrow, Kristi Barrow and Dr Geoff Reynolds
The exhibition “Happily Australian but Estonian Too” was on display at the Estonian House, 141 Campbell St Surry Hills for one month. The opening was on Sunday, 31 May 2004.
The exhibition “Happily Australian but Estonian Too” opened in the ACT Heritage Library, Woden Library, Phillip on Saturday 4 December and remained open until 21 January 2005. An additional panel was created to show the activities of early Estonian migrants in Canberra and the display gave an overview of 50 years of the Estonian community in Canberra. The Archive hosted a visit to the exhibition by the Canberra branch of the Australian Society of Archivists.
The Archive welcomed many overseas visitors from the USA, Canada, and Estonia as well as Australia. The archivist spoke at a Multicultural Heritage workshop in Canberra. As a result the Archive had visitors from members of the Dutch and Croatian communities interested in preserving their own cultural heritage. The Archive mentors smaller community archives.
The Powerhouse Museum was preparing for an exhibition about Estonians in NSW and the museum curators spent many hours in the Archive familiarising themselves with our collections.
More than 50 members of the Mosman Community College visited the EAA 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 Jüri Woan. The programme was divided into three parts, each one introducing a different aspect of Estonian culture and history.
Edgar Siimpoeg was the MC and kept the crowd moving through the exhibitions.
Jüri 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”.
Reet Simmul introduced some of the most important and interesting collections and Maie Barrow highlighted the history of the Estonians in Australia through the “Happily Australian but Estonian too” exhibition.
The collaboration with the Powerhouse Museum continued.
More people were visiting the Archive searching for information about their families. Family history searches started to become very popular.
December 2005 – January 2006 – EAA was open twice during the Estonian Festival. On December 28 2005, visitors could view the “Kalevipoeg” exhibition and listen to a talk by Jüri 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, the journey to Australia 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. A special exhibition “Estonian food-Estonian drinks” was mounted to coincide with the Food Festival.
The work with the Powerhouse Museum continued during the year, The Exhibition “Meie Uus Kodu- Our New Home” opened in November.
The highlight of the year was an international conference for the Baltic Heritage Network held in Tartu in June. This was attended by 5 members of the EAA family. The archivist gave a talk entitled “The Estonian Archives in Australia – a treasure trove for everyone”.
The Archive was asked to participate in the opening of Harmony Park, across the road from Estonian House. The exhibition “Happily Estonian but Australian too” attracted many visitors.
The exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum was opened by the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Estonia Dr Malle Tohver Tinni and was extended to July 2008. It proved to be extremely popular.
In July the archivist attended a Balthernet summer school in Koke, Estonian. Discussion centred around the creation of an internet portal which all expatriate Archives could use. The catalogue of personal papers and the in memoriam notices were almost ready to be added to the Estonian National Archives server. Funding from the Compatriots Program enabled Anne Valmas from the Academic Library, Tallinn to visit and review the book holdings of the EAA.
EAA received funding from the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, through the Compatriots 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 was carried out by conservators from the National Museum in Tartu.
Three volunteers from the Archive; Maie Barrow, Reet Simmul and Jüri Woan, and Raivo Kalamäe, Deputy Chairman of the EAA Council, attended an archive summer school in Käsmu, Estonia. The summer school was organised by the Baltic Heritage Network and funded by the Ministry of Education and Research through the Compatriots Program.
EAA gratefully acknowledged the support from the Compatriots Program.
Photo: Raivo Kalamäe, Reet Simmul, Piret Noorhani (Canada), Anne Valmas (Estonia), Maie Barrow, Jüri Woan
EAA received funding from the Compatriots Program to digitise the photo albums compiled by Hans Vilper. The albums are entitled: “Eestlaste põgenemine kodumaalt, pagulaselu Rootsis sõnas ja pildis 1944-1946” (The flight of Estonians from their homeland, life in exile in Sweden in word and picture, 1944-1946) .
The Compatriots Program also provided support for 3 members of the Archive to attend the Balthernet conference in Tartu. All 3: Maie Barrow, Terry Kass and Ann Tündern Smith presented papers.
At the XXIX West Coast Estonian Festival in Seattle in August the archivist gave a talk entitled “Estonians in Australia”. In September the Maritime Museum held a “Meet the Estonians Day” where Terry Kass talked about Julius Sickler, one of the first Estonians in Australia, Maie Barrow gave an overview of the history and the lives of Estonians in Australia and Külliki Poole introduced Estonian national costumes and handicrafts.
More and more visitors came to the Archive searching for family histories.
The year started with sorting and arranging of the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia records. This was the biggest collection in the Archive dating back to 1952. The work will be ongoing for a long time.
Six members of the Archive attended the Balthernet summer school in Viljandi with support from the Compatriots Program. Reet Simmul talked about the Mielen/Einsaar family papers and Jüri Woan about the photographic collection.
For the XXIII Estonian Festival in Adelaide the Archive mounted a photographic exhibition “Our story continues…” which highlighted the arrival of Estonians to Australia from 1696 to the present day. The archivist also presented a talk entitled “Our story continues…..”
Photo:Lea Holm, Elvi Annuk, Reet Simmul, Maie Barrow, Raivo Kalamäe, Jüri Woan
The year saw two exhibitions, “Estonian money” which comprised notes and coins from the time of the Czar, independence, German occupation to the new Estonian kroons and “ENÜS, celebrating 100 years of academic women”.
Visitors continued to research family history, and many students use the collections for projects.
The Compatriots Program supported the participation of members of the Archive in the Balthernet summer school in Kääriku.
The year celebrated 100 years since the formation of the first Estonian organisation in Australia, “Eesti Ühistu Lõunamaa”. The Archive mounted two exhibitions, the first introduced the Estonians who arrived in Australia before the first World War and the second the post WWII migrants.
Due to a shortage of room the Archive sent its extensive collection of academic papers to the Academic Library in Tallinn. The Archive was able to invite Kalju Tammaru from the National Library of Estonia to review the library which had outgrown its space. The library was rearranged to have a reference section, books written by Estonians in exile after WWII and books written by Estonians living in Australia. Many books were deaccessioned and were offered to other libraries in Estonia.
In June the archivist participated in the Balthernet conference in Tartu. Her talk entitled “Stories from the Southland” described the personal papers of Johann Tilk and Kristof Kaldma and the collection of material from the DP camps in Germany. The latter created a lot of interest. The Archive thanked the Compatriots Program for supporting all three projects.
Following the rearrangement of the library the Archive sent more than 50 boxes of books to memory institutions in Estonia. The postage was supported by the Compatriots Program and the Estonian Relief Committee.
The year’s Balthernet summer school in Alutaguse was attended by Maie Barrow, Reet Simmul and Jüri Woan with support from the Compatriots Program.
In September the Archive arranged the launch of Vasilios Vasilas’ book “Across Lands and Oceans… to Freedom”. The event was attended by the Consul, Katrin Kanarik and members of the Estonian and Greek communities. The sale of the Estonian Village in Thirlmere resulted in the transfer of a great number of records from the Estonian Relief Committee to the Archive.
The year was a hard and busy one for the volunteers. The Archive was asked to move out of the stack room, hence the Archive offered the collection of overseas journals, newspapers and reports to other museums and archives all over the world. Most of the material requested went to Estonian memory institutions to complete their collections The Compatriots Program supported the cost of postage. Since Estonian language newspapers are now available online, the Archive would in future only keep the previous 2 years of any overseas newspaper. The personal papers and in memoriam notices are now available online.
For 2 years the Archive had been helping Vasilios Vasilas to connect with the Estonian community in Australia to gather material for his new book. In October the Archive arranged a reception in the NSW Parliament House to present copies of Vasilios Vasilas’ book “Across Lands and Oceans…to Freedom: stories and photographs from the Estonian journey to Australia and New Zealand” to the Parliamentary Library.
Funding from the Estonian Relief Committee enabled the Archive to modernise its computers and sent deaccessioned books to libraries in Estonia.
In April the archivist gave a talk at the Estonian World Council seminar in Tallinn entitled “As far from Europe as possible”
In June archivists Maie Barrow and Reet Simmul attended the Balthernet conference in Riga. The conference theme was “Tracing the Baltic Road to Independence in Diaspora Archives”. Maie Barrow presented a paper entitled “Chasing the Dream” describing the efforts of Estonians in Australia to gain freedom for their homeland.
Thanks to funding from the Estonian Relief Committee the Archive purchased a colour laser printer/scanner/photocopier. This allowed the photograph collection to be scanned and photographs prepared for exhibitions in-house. The last boxes of books were sent to the Literary Museum and the Tallinn University Academic Library.
The year started with an exhibition “DP Camp Life 1945-1950” in the foyer of Estonian House. The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Estonia, Marina Kaljurand, visited the Archive in February with a delegation of parliamentarians and businessmen. The visitors were impressed with the Archive and praised the work of the volunteers.
This year’s Balthernet conference was in Haapsalu, Estonia where the theme was ‘From the repository to the exhibition”. Discussion centred on how small archives can best introduce their holdings to the public. Maie Barrow and Reet Simmul attended the summer school and the archivist gave a talk entitled “Exhibitions under the Southern Cross.”
In August the volunteers remounted the exhibition “Happily Australian but Estonian too” in the foyer of Estonian House in Sydney. This exhibition had previously been in Adelaide and Canberra but fitted in well with the current theme of exhibitions.
The exhibition “DP Camp Life 1945-1950” formed part of the Estonian Festival in Vilnius. The exhibition was held in the Technical Library in Vilnius and opened by the director of the library Arvydas Kažukauskas. and the guests were greeted by Jana Vanaveski, the Estonian Ambassador to Lithuania.
Paavo Annus from the Film and Sound Archive in Estonia came to advise on the Archive’s sound collection. The EAA Council decided to send the rare records that are missing from the Estonian collections to Estonia since the Archive does not have the expertise and space to preserve them.
Merike Kiipus from the Literary Museum in Tartu spent time reviewing the extensive ephemera collection of the EAA. Australian material would be kept and the remainder would be sent to the Literary Museum since the Archive does not have the resources to catalogue such a large collection.
Much work went into finding the right photographs for the book “eestlased austraalias 100 aastat” (Estonians in Australia 100 years) which was a present from the Estonian community in Australia to the Republic of Estonia on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Independence.
In February Maie Barrow was invited to Latvia to talk about and open the exhibition “DP Camp Life 1945-1950”. The event celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Latvian Society in Riga and the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. Maie Barrow opened the same exhibition in Turku, Finland via SKYPE.
In June, the Balthernet conference was in Tartu where the future of expatriate archives was discussed. Maie Barrow presented a paper “EAA 66 and beyond” and Jüri Woan read a paper by Terry Kass who was unable to be present. The Archive acknowledged the support of the Compatriots Program.
Photo: Merike Kiipus(Literary Museum Estonia), Jüri Woan (EAA), Paavo Annus (National Archives Estonia), Inno Salasoo & Tiiu Salasoo (Australia) from Baltic Heritage Network
In October the Archive was honoured by a visit from the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid. The Archive holds the President’s grandfather’s personal papers.
In November Ivi Tomingas from the National Archives of Estonia visited the Archive to assist with the cataloguing and preservation of the photographic collection.
Photo: Reet Simmul, the Honorary Consul for NSW Sulev Kalamäe, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, Maie Barrow and the Estonian Ambassador Andres Unga.
The preparation of catalogues of the records of organisations, the DP camps and the library made great progress.
Much effort went into collaborating with the working party producing the book “eestlased austraalias 100 aastat” (Estonians in Australia 100 years) and the accompanying DVD “Eestlased Austraalias – 100 Tähistades Eesti Vabariigi 100 aastapäeva” (Estonians in Australia celebrating 100 years of Estonian Independence). The book and DVD were presents from the Estonian community in Australia. Copies of the book and DVD were given to all county libraries and main memory institutions in Estonia and the National Library in Canberra and the depositing libraries in NSW.
In Febraury, EAA was entered on the Register of Cultural Organisations and now holds Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status for the “Kris Kalma Fund”.
The Balthernet summer school was held in conjunction with ESTO 2019. The archivist gave talks on the history and preservation of Estonian music and art in Australia.
September was the 75th anniversary of the great flight of Estonians from their homeland. To commemorate this occasion the Archive mounted an exhibition “The Great Escape 1944” in the foyer of Estonian House in Sydney.
The Archive was given access to part of Valdemar Vilder’s extensive collection of documents, photographs and books. Assessing the collection was very time consuming as was the sorting and arranging of the chosen records. This project taxed the resources of the Archive and will continue for some time yet.
The new Estonian Ambassador to Australia, Mrs Kersti Eesmaa visited the Archive in November.
Due to the covid epidemic Estonian House was closed most of the year. This meant that the Archive had to be closed as well. However we did not waste that time but used it to commission an new logo and create a new web site, Facebook and Instagram presence. The response to the new web site was astonishing.
The Estonian Cultural Foundation in Australia (ECFA) gave us a grant to digitise the Lustig manuscript. No sooner had the news appeared on our webpage, we were contacted by the Lionsgate Buddhist Priory in Canada with the news that they also had a copy of the manuscript and had already digitised it. They kindly sent us the digital version and allowed us to share it with other researchers. This meant that we could use the grant to digitise our oral history collection.
We look forward to the Archive being open next year.
Image: Social media post thanking the Estonian Cultural Foundation in Australia Ltd for funding to digitise a rare manuscript in our collection.
The covid epidemic continued and Estonian House remained closed for most of the year. We made use of the time to plan the future move to our new room in Estonian House. Although we would have less room than before, careful design and a suitable compactus meant than we could fit in most of our material. The library needed a review and many books would have to be deaccessioned. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Estonian reindependence we put the exhibition “The story continues…” online.
Some of the volunteers worked from home. We continued to answer emails, find photographs for the Estonian Embassy in Canberra and make plans to digitise our oral history collection.
We had a successful fundraising drive to raise money for the digitisation and with a grant from the ECFA and the Ministry of Education and Research in Estonia we were able to digitise all our video interviews.
Much to our delight our oral history collection was inscribed into the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register, quite an honour for a small archive like ours.