Research group: Anu Kannike, Pille Runnel, Anu Järs, Reet Piiri

Research on food heritage, food history and food culture as it is linked to the field of environmental history has been present as one of the museum’s research fields for decades. This field of research is now being developed with the goal of increasing the standards of research within the ENM’s fields of responsibility, and of expanding the influence of our work, including research into tradition and innovation in food heritage.

There is an increasing public interest and need for food knowledge based on the ENMs archives, including the application of this knowledge in the area of food production. Food culture is a significant part of national and regional heritage that has economic and political significance. In European countries, including Estonia, public debate has emerged regarding how to involve the culinary past in identity formation. At the same time at the level of the state, entrepreneurs, and the general public, people are looking for ways to create a more attractive face for a common culinary past in order to encourage tourists and locals alike to value and consume it.

One of the tasks of the national museum is to be a national culinary memory institution collecting and studying both culinary past and present, and mediating the relevant knowledge and materiality to the public. Through this the ENM is also able to participate in the public debate and influence development trends. The development of the field of food history research involves collaboration with other institutions (universities, food sector, NGOs, etc.) that continuously redefine food knowledge and consumer needs. This field of interdisciplinary research also involves collaboration with entrepreneurs. The study of food heritage will also comprise contribution into product development.

The current development is funded by the ASTRA program, which enables the ENM to start fundraising for the extension of the field. Developing the capacity in the area of food research contributes to the museum reaching its goals under the framework document development plan titled “Estonian Food 2015-2020”.

During the earlier period, two international collaboration projects took place – a cooperation initiative between Nordic museums on food heritage, Brod i Norden, and A Taste of Europe, an international museum research and exhibition project connecting food heritage and analysis of contemporary global food developments (researchers and curators Terje Anepaio, Ellen Värv, Reet Piiri), which resulted in a set of international exhibitions by the project partners, including the exhibition at the ENM. The pedagogical programmes of the exhibition and research project were directed at schoolchildren in order to increase their knowledge of contemporary food culture. The collaboration project generated extensive fieldwork and documentation of food habits and memories of growing and consuming food.

As part of the exhibition programme at the ENM’s new facilities, an exhibition on contemporary food culture and its links to food heritage, Food We Cook, opened in 2016 (researchers/curators Pille Runnel, Agnes Aljas). Preparation for the exhibition involved two years of fieldwork and documentation, collecting written contributions from ENM correspondents, participatory actions of documenting people’s food habits and thorough documentation work using the visual anthropological approach: studying Estonian food culture in restaurant kitchens and documenting regional food cultures and everyday gendered cooking habits in Estonian homes. Additionally, exhibition production involved collaboration with the National Institute for Health Development, whose extensive survey results from their study of the eating habits of the Estonian population (2014-2015) were integrated and mediated to exhibition visitors.

Extensive museological work in the area of food culture will continue, along with academic research, as previous work showed that Estonian museums do not have sufficient artefacts (furniture, appliances, everyday items) or archive materials (including photos of kitchens, everyday food, etc.) on the development of food culture.

Selection of projects, publications and conferences

Taste of Europe (European Commission Culture Programme Project, 2007-2013, principal investigator Sofia Seifarth). Research staff: Terje Anepaio, Reet Piiri, Ellen Värv

Development of food heritage Studies at the Estonian National Museum (ASTRA - Estonian Research Councils support for Research Infrastructures of National Importance, 2017-2019). Research staff: Anu Kannike, Pille Runnel

Anepaio, T., Piiri, R., Värv E. (2011). Räägime kartulist! / Let's talk about potatoes!. Tartu: Estonian National Museum.

Bardone, E., Kannike, A., Põltsam-Jürjo, I., Plath, U. (2016). 101 Eesti toitu ja toiduainet (101 Estonian foodstuffs and dishes). Tallinn: Varrak.

2011. Euroopa maitsed / Taste of Europe, curators Terje Anepaio, Ellen Värv, Reet Piiri. Co-operation with European Commission Culture Programme Project Taste of Europe

2012. Participatory exhibition Eesti Rahva toidulaud: soustist sushini, curators Ehti Järv, Jaanika Jaanits

2014 Toit – eestluse varait. Eestlaste toiduärid ja –tööstused Torontos / Estonian food businesses and factories in Toronto, curators Riina Reinvelt, Piret Noorhani

2016. Eesti püsinäitus Kohtumised. Süüa me teeme / Estonian permanent exhibition Encounters. We Cook, curators Pille Runnel, Agnes Aljas