Margot Sakson

The University of Tartu Botanical Garden's 220-year history unfolds at the "Green Treasury" exhibition

On 7 June, the opening of the exhibition "The Green Treasury", dedicated to the 220th anniversary of the University of Tartu Botanical Garden, will be celebrated as the month of the Botanical Garden's birthday. 

Botaanikaaed 220 visuaal

The University of Tartu Botanical Garden is a place in the heart of Tartu where everyone can come to enjoy the greenery - a garden with a rich plant collection where visitors can easily walk through different parts of the world and various natural communities in Estonia and where the curious can learn about plant species and their conservation. The University of Tartu Botanical Garden also tells the story of the people of Tartu - many a wedding or family photo has been taken here, a loved one met, or time spent with a good book. In addition to humans, insects and other creatures enjoy the green oasis. 

The exhibition "The Green Treasury" unravels the story of the University of Tartu Botanical Garden over 220 years. Curator Inge Kukk said the exhibition overviews the botanic garden's distant history. "The poster exhibition, based on rich archival material, introduces the botanical garden's plans and the buildings planned for the garden at the original location of the botanical garden in the park of Tiigi and Vanemuise Streets and the current plot on the banks of the Emajõgi River," said Kukk. 

"In 1803, when the land was bought, and the construction of the botanical garden was begun in the area of Tiigi and Vanemuise park next to the present Natural History Museum, Tartu was still a "small wooden town" with few stone buildings in the city centre. Nevertheless, the professors of the university and the architect Johann Wilhelm Kraus had the ambition and foresight to build a grand architectural ensemble for the university in the centre of Tartu," Kukk explains. "The botanical garden was important for teaching natural sciences and medicine, and the construction of a large greenhouse was one of the first buildings planned, together with the anatomy department, the library and the main university building." 

The exhibition will show how the Botanical Garden has changed over the years, including architectural drawings, various garden plans and old photographs that have never been seen before. Curator Inge Kukke was most surprised to find the original garden plan of the Botanical Garden, drawn by architect Johann Wilhelm Krause, in the university library, which the library had acquired from an antiquarian bookshop a few years ago. "Even though the idea was never realised, I found it fascinating how Krause tried to make the boring park area between Tiigi and Vanemuise Streets more interesting and picturesque. He designed a network of water channels starting from the pond and an artificial mound inside, which was to be a cave, popular in garden design at the time. The latter would have been roughly where the Hurda statue is today." 

Curator: Inge Kukk 

Design: Margot Sakson 

Translation and editing: Meelis Leesik 

Printed by Salibar OÜ 

Historical maps and photos by the University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden, the National Archives of Estonia, the Estonian National Museum, the University of Tartu Museum, the University of Tartu Library, the Tartu Art Museum, the Virumaa Museums. 

The Ministry of Culture supported the exhibition. 


The exhibition "Green Treasury" is dedicated to the 220th anniversary of the University of Tartu Botanical Garden. The exhibition will open on Wednesday, 7 June, at noon in conjunction with the Nature Festival at the University of Tartu Botanical Garden. The exhibition will remain in the classroom until 31 August and can be visited with a ticket to the Botanical Garden. 

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