Estonia: Museum cracks under religious pressure, alters Virgin Mary exhibit

The newly opened National Museum of Estonia in the city of Tartu caved under pressure from religious groups, politicians and the public and altered an art exhibit featuring the Virgin Mary, reported news media non-profit Transitions Online on 17 October 2016.

The exhibit featured a virtual image of the Virgin Mary projected onto glass panels set into a concrete pedestal. On the pedestal was a spot that visitors could kick, which would “shatter” the image into virtual pieces that then form into the word “Reformation”. The museum removed the interactive element of kicking the pedestal.

Manager of the exhibition Kristel Rattus said the aim of the exhibit was not to pinpoint a particular religious icon, but rather to provoke people to think about the consequences of their actions and doesn’t consider the alteration to be censorship; rather, Rattus considers the original version had an opposite effect of encouraging aggressive behaviour.

Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Urmas Viilma, stated on his Facebook page on 30 September 2016 after the museum’s inauguration that the exhibit was an “insult” to believers and that it encouraged people to destroy an icon.

Estonia’s former ambassador to Russia said the exhibit “insults the feelings of religious Russian-speaking residents and hinders their integration”, reported the Daily Mail on 13 October 2016.

The museum was just inaugurated on 29 September 2016 and opened to the public on 1 October 2016.

Photo: National Museum of Estonia’s Facebook page


» Christian Today – 19 October 2016:
Museum back down over controversial exhibit which allowed visitors to ‘kick’ Virgin Mary

» Transitions Online – 17 October 2016:
Estonian art exhibit causes uproar

» Daily Mail – 13 October 2016:
Pray and display: Museum in Estonia invites visitors to smash an image of the Virgin Mary to pieces


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