The entrance hall of the new ERM building, featuring the bust of famous folklorist Jakob Hurt (1839-1907). Source: (Aili Vahtla/ERR)
Since its opening at the end of September last year, the Estonian National Museum (ERM) has been visited by over 200,000 people, generating over €1 million in ticket revenue.
Of the over 200,000 visitors, approximately 125,000 were individual visitors while another 75,000 visited in groups. An additional 22,000 people have attended concerts, performances or conferences held at the museum without buying museum tickets. Museum visitor figures, however, included conference guests for whom museum tickets were bought.
ERM director Tõnis Lukas commented that during the first few months of the museum's operation in particular, guests of conferences held there were also purchased a museum ticket, as the museum was still new and people had not yet visited it.
As of mid-May, ERM has sold a total of €1.06 million in tickets, of which over half, or €576,440 worth, were sold as full-priced tickets, a quarter, or €320, 365 worth, were sold as discount tickets and just over one-tenth, or €166,301 worth, were sold as family tickets, which include up to two adults with their children up to 18 years of age.
Discount tickets are available for purchase by groups, event-goers, students and seniors. The museum has also been visited by individuals with the right to free admission.
15 percent of ERM visitors have been foreign tourists, however according to Lukas, this number is growing. In May, for example, the number of Finnish and Latvian groups to visit the museum has been on the rise.
Detailed plan for surrounding area causing concern
Lukas is concerned by Tartu Municipality's plan to make changes to a detailed plan that would see the construction of strictly residential apartment buildings in the vicinity of the museum. Previous version of the plan included social and commercial elements as well.
"ERM was constructed for centuries [of use]," he pointed out. "It would be deeply regrettable if only a dormitory were designed around it."
Until now, the museum had hoped that a hotel would be built in the area, which would help support their intentions to cater to foreign tourists as well.
According to Lukas, the construction of a residential area would mean a 100-percent turnaround on ERM's plans for the future, as they would no longer be able to make use of its outdoor spaces as or to the extent originally planned. While there were plans to make use of the museum's outdoor areas to hold outdoor concerts, for example, the establishment of a residential area adjacent to it would impose clear restrictions on such activity.
Director wants to continue
Lukas' term as director of the museum will be drawing to a close at the beginning of 2018. He admitted that there has been so much work to do that he hasn't been able to give much thought to the looming deadline. When the competition for a new museum director is announced, however, he wants to apply for a second term.
"I have thought of this as continuous work," Lukas told ERR. "Not one stage is currently ending or beginning; this is a continuous process. Knowing myself, when the competition is announced at some point, then it is likely that I will apply."