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Immigration History Research Center

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News Release Nov. 4, 2003

Joel Wurl, Immigration History Research Center,(612) 625-4800,

Estonian Archives in the U.S., Inc., and IHRC collaborate to preserve archives and provide graduate fellowship; celebration held Oct. 31

In an act of collegiality and confidence, the directors of the Estonian Archives in the U.S., Inc., located in Lakewood, NJ, voted earlier this year to transfer the institution’s vast archival holdings to the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, for preservation and scholarly access. In addition,the organization has contributed $150,000 to establish the "Hildegard and Gustav Must" Graduate Fellowship in Estonian American Studies at the IHRC. The IHRC and the College of Liberal Arts hosted a celebration of gratitude for these gifts on Friday afternoon, October 31, 2003, in the Elmer L. Andersen Library atrium. Cosponsor of the reception was the longtime local supporter asa member of the Friends of the IHRC, the Estonian Association of Minnesota. Remarks of appreciation for the collaboration were made by College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone; former University of Minnesota Regent H. Bryan III, reading a letter from Pres. Robert Bruininks; Enda-Mai Michelson Holland, on behalf of the Estonian Archives board of directors; Kalju Kubits,president of the Estonian Association of Minnesota; Janis Robins, representing the local Latvian American community, and Joel Wurl, Curator and Asst. Director of the IHRC, presiding.

The Fellowship and Estonian American Studies Fund

The fellowship endowment gift honors the late Hildegard and Gustav Must, distinguished Estonian American linguistics scholars and early supporter sand benefactors of the Estonian Archives. The earnings from this endowment fund are being matched dollar-for-dollar by funding from the University's Graduate School as part of its "21st Century Fellowship" program. The contribution also generates matching funds from a Challenge Grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to the University on behalf of the IHRC for its endowment. Students awarded the Must Fellowship will participate in the care and development of the IHRC's Estonian American collection, which is dramatically enriched by virtue of the transfer of the Estonian Archives holdings. The fellowship, to be awarded to a graduate student enrolled at the University of Minnesota, will be regularly announced on a national level. For further information about the fellowship, visit its page. The Must Fellowship is a giant first step in the development of an Estonian American Studies Fund at the IHRC. Contributions to the overarching Fund will enable the IHRC to raise public consciousness of Estonian American history, foster wider understanding of the contributions of Estonian immigrants to American life, and make a significant investment in future scholars of the Estonian experience in the United States. Donations to the Fund will also be matched by the NEH Challenge Grant, if received by July 2005. For more information about how to contribute to the Estonian American Studies Fund, visit its page.

The Estonian American Archives

Although collecting of Estonian American materials began more than a century ago, the great majority of materials that became the Estonian Archives of the U.S., Inc., were donated by immigrants who had been in the displaced persons camps in Germany, 1945–1950. In 1969 the Estonian National Council held a special session that began the process of creating a central archive.In 1972 a small building to house the collections was erected on the property of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lakewood, NJ. The collection eventually grew to over 1,200 linear feet. On June30 a large truck arrived at Andersen Library carrying 10 pallets of boxes—the first installment of materials transferred from the EAUS to the IHRC. A second smaller, but still sizable, segment arrived on September 30. Files received thus far fall into the categories of organizations (178 boxes in the first shipment),individual or family materials (68 boxes), periodicals, and audiovisual materials (films, slides, tapes, recordings, and photographs). Yet to arrive are many more boxes of papers pertaining to organizations, miscellaneous event programs and leaflets, periodicals, records from DP camps, individual files, and more photographs and magnetic tapes. Recipients of the Must Graduate Fellowship will help to arrange and describe all of these materials so that they are the most accessible to researchers. The Estonian Archives, a key cultural institution of the Estonian American community, has been a supporter of the IHRC for many years. The Center appreciates their support and confidence. The transfer of these archival holdings to the IHRC establishes its collection as the nation’s premier resource for the study of Estonian American history.