Our story

On 1 January 2014, the state museum The Estonian Open Air Museum and state institution Conservation Centre Kanut joined and formed a foundation Estonian Open Air Museum Foundation. The foundation will continue as a museum that introduces rural architecture and landscape as well as a competence centre that deals with restoration, conservation and digitization.

The story of the Estonian Open Air Museum

Estonian National Museum, established in 1909 in Tartu, said in 1913 that establishing an open air museum was also its task. Estonian intellectuals got the idea from visiting the open air museums in Scandinavia and Finland (in Sweden the open air museum Skansen was established in 1891, in Norway in 1897, in Denmark in 1901, in Finland Seurasaari open air museum was established in 1909). The First World War hindered the museum from taking more serious steps. As from 1921, the resources of Estonian National Museum were spent on fitting out the Raadi Castle, and increasing economic difficulties did not enable to begin with the costly undertaking – the construction of the open air museum.

In years 1925 – 1931, the Estonian Open Air Museum Association was active in Tallinn, and setting up the museum in the capital was under discussion. In 1920s and 1930s, the ethnographers of the Estonian National Museum I. Manninen, F. Linnus and G. Ränk promoted and planned the future exposition of the Open Air Museum. The Pirita park-museum should have started its work on 1 July 1941 but the war began.

In 1950, the Union of Architects with K. Tihane, A. Kasper, H. Armani, G. Jommi and others raised the issue of setting up an open air museum. More specific preparation activities started in 1956, this time in the Ministry of Culture. Additionally to the above-mentioned names, architects F. Tomps and I. Sagur, historians H. Moora, G. Troska, A. Viires, O. Korzjukov were also active in the organizing committees.

The museum was founded on 22 May 1957, it started its activity the same year on 1 June. In July, the museum got a plot of 66 ha near Tallinn, on the coast of Kopli Bay, in the area of Rocca al Mare summer manor, which was established in 19 century. The museum under construction was opened for the visitors in August 1964.

By today, the territory of the museum is 72.22 and there are 74 exposed buildings.

The story of the Conservation Centre Kanut

Based on the restoration departments of the National Museum of Art and National Open Air Museum, the National Restoration Centre was established on 1 December 1986. The task of the Centre was to service the museums under Ministry of Culture of that time (ESSR Committee of Culture), and to assist other memory institutions, if possible. The idea of the Restoration Centre was initiated and set going by a recognized leather artist and conservator Endel Valk-Falk who worked as a manager of this centre since the establishment of the centre until 1995. The Restoration Centre got rooms for working in the Old Town of Tallinn in the building of the former printing house “Kommunist” (Communist) at Pikk Str 2 where they work also today. Eight workshops were opened in the Centre: ethnographic and polychromic wood, furniture, painting, leather, textile, ceramics, metal and paper restoration workshops. The Centre also started to organize consultations and training for museum specialists and conservators. As from 1988, a professional magazine “Renovatum Anno…” has been issued.

In 1990, the institution was named as Conservation Centre Kanut, which was derived from Knud Lavard, the name of a Danish duke who is also known as a patron saint of the craftsmen who were active in Tallinn for centuries.

As from 2005, the Conservation Centre Kanut has also provided the digitization service of the items of cultural value.