Changes in the definition and conceptualisation of culture in 20th-century Estonia
In recent decades, we have had the opportunity to see at first hand how the term culture has undergone constant change. Above all, the change in the way culture is defined reflects, and is a representation of, society’s preconceived notions and conventions. The meanings that arise as the definition changes are not objects but actions – actions that have a reciprocal effect. In turn, the manner in which culture is defined and conceptualised in society influences society’s development and determines what we understand as culture. My dissertation interest revolves around the role played by culture in the public sphere from the perspective of Estonian history, and the role of cultural institutions and their engagement with the public. This is related to a number of research projects currently being undertaken at Tartu University’s Institute of Media and Communication: The actual complexity of cultural communication and methodological challenges in cultural research; Changing cultural dispositions among Estonians: from the 1970s to the present time; and Developing museum communication in the 21 st -century information environment. The objective of my doctoral dissertation is to examine and compare how the term culture was used and constructed in the Estonian media in the 20th century, and to view the period from the early 1900s to the present day. On the basis of my findings, I will elucidate different concepts and contexts of the term culture, and changes in how culture has been defined in Estonian society: how the media have treated culture in various decades and developmental stages. The material comes from content analysis of daily newspaper texts. In terms of cultural institutions and areas of culture, my interest focuses mainly on memory institutions and their role as cultural experts, how museums have been handled in Estonian society and how museums present, elucidate and interpret culture, as well as viewing the experts and audience engaged in these processes. In order to analyse the role of modern cultural experts in the information society, I have conducted interviews with memory institution workers to view their engagement with audiences, and have also analysed different participation actions in museums, libraries and archives.