The mission of museums is to maintain the continuity of culture over time and to be a link between past experience and the future. Museums preserve and shape our identity, tell our story to both Estonian residents and visitors. Museums have an important social and economic impact. They have a great potential for creating an educated, more sustainable and open society. Museums contribute to people's wellbeing and are a source of creativity and new ideas.

According to Statistics Estonia, there are 175 museums in Estonia in 227 locations, where approximately 6.9 million museum objects are preserved.

The administrative area of the Ministry of Culture includes 7 state museums and 13 foundations.

The state museums, museums of state foundations and museums that use the state museum collection on the basis of an administrative agreements can be found here .

In 2020, more than 1.7 million visits were made to museums.

Statistics on museums are collected by Statistics Estonia and the data is available in the statistical database.

The annual Museum Night is a popular event in which many people participate.

Museums in the virtual world

MuIS, or the museum information system, is a web-based work environment for managing museum collections and keeping records on state assets. It also enables the information found in the museums to be made available to the public. By the end of 2020, descriptions of approx. 3.77 million museums had been entered in MuIS. About 1.77 million of them have digital images.

Estonia’s e-varamu is a unified e-environment, the aim of which is to make the digitised resources of Estonian memory institutions, i.e. the libraries, archives and museums, available online.

Division of labour between the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage Board in regard to museums.

As of 1 May 2019, in addition to heritage protection, the National Heritage Board also curates the field of museums.

Ministry of Culture:

  • legislation
  • strategic planning
  • operating grants and investments
  • museum council

National Heritage Board:

  • museum information system MuIS
  • repositories of Estonian cultural heritage
  • national collection policy
  • supervision of museum collections

  • compensation for damages for international exhibitions
  • studies, analyses
  • counselling, training, instructions
  • project grants

Organising the museum network

Since 2012, the museum network has been reorganised and the legal form of the museums has been changed, based on the specifics of the museums and the local circumstances.

The state has established thirteen new museum foundations, and five former state museums are now being managed by local governments.

Being organised as a foundation is preferable to being a state agency, as it provides the museum with a more flexible and local or regional management model.

Advantages of a foundation

  • a more flexible and institution-oriented management model;
  • through its founders and supervisory board members, the museum can be more closely linked to its field and area of activity;
  • the supervisory board ensures broader management competence through its members;
  • the plurality of opinions on the supervisory board as a collective decision-making body helps to make the best decisions;
  • the director is not appointed or dismissed by the minister, but must be approved by a majority of the members of the supervisory board;
  • management decisions can be made faster than in public agencies;
  • greater freedom and flexibility apply when calculating income and expenses, earning income and using the institution's assets;
  • all institution’s income can be used to fund the foundation’s main activities;
  • when the financial year ends, there is no limit to the state budget funds that can be carried over into the next year (in a state agency this is limited to 3%).

Important partners

In order to implement museum policy, the Ministry of Culture works closely with the National Heritage BoardEstonian Museum AssociationICOM Estonia and Museum Council.

National Heritage Board

In regard to museums, the National Heritage Board has the following goals: to develop the museum field in Estonia as an implementer of museum policy; to act as consultant for and populariser of museums; to be an initiator of cross-museum developments; and to support cooperation between museums with its activities.

You will find general information about museums and support materials for museum staff on the National Heritage Board website.

Museum Council

The Museum Council is the Minister of Culture’s advisory body, which includes representatives of museums and their founders, as well as other experts in the museum field.

The Museum Council makes proposals and issues opinions on issues related to museums, for example, reviews the collection principles of the museums.

The composition and documents of the Museum Council is available here.


Marju Reismaa

Adviser (Museums)

Last updated: 09.11.2021