The Estonian National Museum has published a unique photo album entitled The Human Face of Nations: Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic People in Old Ethnographic Photographs, most of the pictures in which are seeing publication for the first time. The coffee-table book serves as a useful introduction to an exhibition opening at the museum in February and to the Finno-Ugric World Congress due to be held in Estonia later this year.
The photographs in the book date from the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. This was a time when men of letters showed a keen interest in peasant folk and populations were divided up into nationalities according to their linguistic and cultural heritage. Nations are of course made up of people, but to ethnographers at the time, individuals tended to be viewed more as typical representatives of their nationalities than as independent objects of study.
The photo album was compiled by Indrek Jääts. “Putting together a proper coffee-table book on the subject took quite a lot of work,” he explains. “It came together with the assistance of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. The majority of the photos in the album have never been published in Estonia before. We sourced them not just from the Museum of Ethnography in Russia, but also from Hungary, Finland and the Estonian National Museum as well.”
The series of photos selected for the book take readers on a short journey through the history of both ethnography and the nations of the people photographed. The oldest images, including Charles Borchardt’s photographs of Estonians, are from an ethnographic exhibition held in Moscow in 1867. In addition to the photos, the book also features examples of ethnographic maps from the period.
An exhibition similarly entitled ‘The Human Face of Nations’ will be opening at the Estonian National Museum on 26 February 2021, based on the same material as the book. The official presentation of the book will take place at the opening of the exhibition.
The book is being published in Estonian, English and Russian.
The book will be available for purchase from the museum’s online store and gift shop and from all good book stores.
Source: Estonian National Museum