Heritage Projects


The virtual archive 'AlbertaSource.ca/abestonians' was produced as part of a multi-year project of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society (AEHS) to celebrate the history of Alberta's Estonians spanning over 100 years. It is based on extensive source materials made available by generous support of individuals, institutions and agencies in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada, Estonia, Australia and the United States.

The initial project was the documentary DVD 'Alberta's Estonians' completed in 2007, followed by the publication in 2010 of an illustrated book 'Freedom, Land, & Legacy: Alberta's Estonians, 1899-2009.' The same year all source materials were donated to the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA) (http://hermis.alberta.ca/paa/ and are available onsite, online, and in perpetuity. Following the completion of an updated website in late 2011 , a second donation to the PAA, referred to as the Alberta Estonian Collection, is planned for early 2012.

The updated virtual archive comprises a comprehensive selection of materials about the history of Alberta's Estonians under the following headings: History, People, Communities, Cultural Life and Multimedia Resources. These selections tell the salient stories about Alberta's Estonian community, linked by common origins, culture and history, past and present. They tell stories about pioneers and immigrants who found their way to Alberta and established themselves and their communities in their adopted homeland. In this context, the selections provide richly-illustrated overviews of societies, community halls, libraries, archival collections, cooperatives and cemeteries. These in turn are interconnected by an emphasis on education, technological innovation and cultural expression, resulting in a rich and progressive legacy.

This digital record of Alberta's Estonian legacy was made possible by the leadership of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society and its members. Thousands of family documents and photographs, extensive coverage of the community's activities in Canadian and Estonian media, and retrieval of archival materials from Canadian and Estonian memory institutions provided a historically important collection to be preserved and accessed by future generations.

The AEHS Heritage Project captures the unique history of Alberta's Estonians in visual, written and digital media formats. These diverse deliverables were made possible by generous financial support from government and private granting agencies. Their participation is noted throughout the virtual archive. Many individuals, near and far, participated in the prodigious effort writing and compiling stories; searching, printing and digitizing photos spanning a century; and contributing artifacts for inclusion in the Estonian Collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

This collection represents an impressive, wide-ranging overview of a small group who nonetheless had a sustained influence in this province.

In five short years, the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society (AEHS) has accomplished a tremendous amount.

  • Archival collection at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
    • Materials about Alberta's Estonians previously stored at the National Library and Archives of Canada and at the Tartu Institute and Estonian Historical Commission Archives in Toronto were transferred to the Provincial Archives of Alberta in Edmonton. As well, members and friends of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society have donated many items to this collection. Additional records will be donated to the PAA early in 2012. Cataloguing is ongoing and is expected to be completed by the middle of 2012.
  • Heritage Book.
    • A richly illustrated 298-page book, Freedom, Land, & Legacy: Alberta's Estonians, 1899-2009 was published in the fall of 2010.
  • The DVD.
    • In 2006 the AEHS was invited to make a presentation about Alberta's Estonian pioneers at the 2007 West Coast Estonian Days in Los Angeles. The response was a 30-minute documentary DVD entitled Alberta's Estonians.
  • Website.
    • Having received very positive reviews of the DVD, the society was inspired to begin establish a digital archive. The original website content, www.albertasource.ca/abestonians, was posted in the summer of 2009.

The rich and inspiring history of Alberta's Estonians, which in 2011 spans three centuries and six generations, is now easily accessible to people of Estonian background, historians and other interested persons. These amazing and unique stories of hardship - but also of achievement, willpower and pride - are well worth preserving.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage