About EAU

About EAU

EAU was established in 1969.

The need to establish an archive in the USA emerged already in the 1950s, at a time of active Estonian immigration to the USA. The World Estonian Association published an appeal in the Estonian newspaper ”Vaba Eesti Sõna” (Free Estonian Word) of March 25, 1960, calling on Estonians to go through their libraries and other printed materials and donate publications issued during (and before) Estonia’s independence to its archives that were in the process of being established.

The establishment of the archives, however, took more time. The materials of the Geislingen D.P. camp laid foundation to the collections of the archives. In order to take care of these materials Ferdinand Kool suggested in January 1966 that the Estonian American National Council set up an archive under the name of the Estonian Archives in the U.S. (EAU), appoint a temporary custodian and begin collecting new materials as quickly as possible. 

The founding meeting of EAU was held on June 27, 1969.

In 1972 the building specially constructed for the archives was festively inaugurated. The archives actually moved into the building in September 1975. The adventurous journey of the Geislingen archival materials from Marburg through the Library of Congress in Washington and F.Kool’s basement in Manchester finally came to its end in Lakewood. In the 1980s an annex was built. In 2002 there were more than 350 archival collections registered at IHRC. The collections contained more than 35 000 files, which, packed into about 100 archival boxes, covered more than 1200 feet of shelve space.

In spring 2003 the transfer of the archival collections to the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) in Minnesota began. IHRC was founded in 1965 and has been functioning under the present name since 1974. IHRC collects the archival materials of all American immigrant groups, including those of Finnish, Ukrainian, Latvian and Lithuanian. The Research Center is housed in a modern building with good conditions for preservation and research.

In October 2003 the Estonian Archives in the U.S. and the University of Minnesota concluded a contract, signed on behalf of EAU by its chair Enda-Mai Michelson and vice chair Thomas Vaga. In accordance with the contract the Gustav and Hildegard Must Estonian-American Studies Fund was established at the University of Minnesota. The Fund guarantees appropriate preservation of Estonian archival materials at IHRC and ensures researchers access to these materials. With its support it is possible to employ undergraduate students for arranging and researching these materials.

By the end of 2003 about one third of EAU’s collections had been transferred to IHRC, and this work is selectively continuing. For the time being those archival collections needed by organizations in their activities or used in on-going research remain in their place. These collections include those of the Estonian American National Council, the Estonian Relief Committee, the Estonian Relief, the New York Estonian Educational Society, the Lakewood Estonian Association, the Lakewood Trinity Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation and the Baltimore Estonian Society. EAU’s own archives remain in Lakewood as well. Art works, textiles, ethnographical items, medals and memorial stamps also remain in the possession of EAU, as IHRC does not accept museum objects. Of publications one copy is sent to IHCR and the other is kept at EAU. The Estonian Archives in the U.S. continues to function in Lakewood as an independent institution even though the larger part of its collections is housed at IHRC.