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Hundreds of fairy tales, dozens of magical objects and numerous strange encounters – the Estonian National Museum (ERM) exhibition ‘Once Upon a Time...’ takes visitors on a journey through a magical forest and the underworld to meet holograms of heroes in the exhibition hall and guides them out of hell via an eight-metre laser corridor.

“By autumn of the year before last,” said Katrin Sipelgas, Head Curator and originator of the exhibition concept, “I had thought about fairy tales for so long that I finally decided to turn them into an exhibition. The original versions of the same stories that have become popular thanks to contemporary fairy tale films were told in our farmhouses 100 years ago or even earlier.


This is why the Estonian National Museum is the perfect place for fairy tales.” Several creators have contributed to making this exhibition a reality, incl. film director Jaak Kilmi, writer Andrus Kivirähk, folklorists Risto Järv and Ülo Valk, animator Priit Tender and historian David Vseviov.

No fairy tale is complete without magical objects.


But where can we find them?


Coincidentally, Katrin Sipelgas’ travels have taken her to faraway lands from South America to Indonesia.


“I have travelled back with Aladdin’s lamp, a magic mirror and seven-league boots in my suitcases,” said Sipelgas. Moreover, a few months ago, a shipping container arrived at the museum full of decorations that did not fit into a suitcase – giant twisted tree roots to serve as the roof of the underworld and a number of flying carpets.

The Estonian National Museum’s collections include fairytale items that have now been moved from the depths of the storage room into display cases.


The most exciting of these is a pot of money that was dug up by Nikolai Bergwald in 1933 when clearing a field at Ugametsa farm in Viljandi County. The copper cauldron was filled with jewellery and coins.


The exhibition also features a peculiar bearded mask that was made 80 years ago in Hiiumaa. The Estonian Literary Museum contributed a dozen exciting books.

‘Once Upon a Time...’ will take visitors on a journey along which they encounter everything a hero might in a fairy tale; heroes are represented in the exhibition hall by holograms.


As in any fairy tale, visitors will face trials and find resolutions. Be it a card came with devils in the underworld or a fight with a dragon. In order to escape hell, visitors must pass through an eight-metre laser corridor.  

The fairy tale exhibition will remain open in the Estonian National Museum temporary exhibitions hall (A-entrance) until spring 2021. More information on the exhibition can be found on the Estonian National Museum Website

“The term fairy tale seemingly refers to a time long past,” explains Risto Järv, Folklorist and Curator (Estonian Literary Museum), “but the contents of these stories can be easily transferred to the present day.


The poetry of fairy tales allows listeners and readers, adults and children alike, to easily relate to fairy tale heroes and heroines.


These are current stories about the problems and struggles of contemporary people and how to overcome them.”


Additional information:
Kalmar Kurs,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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