The aim of the programme is to provide knowledge and the necessary practical skills for qualified professional work in the field of cultural heritage protection, preservation, conservation and restoration. 

  • The Academy of Arts is the only school of higher education in Estonia where one can acquire an academic higher education in cultural heritage and architectural conservation and restoration, as well as the conservation and restoration of art. The department’s faculty members are recognised and highly respected specialists in their fields.
  • The curriculum is responsive to changes and developments in the philosophy, as well as theories and practices, of cultural heritage and restoration. It is based on the principles of sustainable development and balanced innovation through the consistent development of the cultural environment.
  • Preserving and protecting the cultural legacy, and its professional conservation and restoration necessitates the education of highly qualified specialists. 


In the autumn of 2013, the Art Museum of Estonia initiated a large-scale project which aimed to research and conserve the altarpiece of the high altar of St. Nicholas’ Church in Tallinn with support from EU funding. The altarpiece was completed in the workshop of the well-known Lübeck master, Herman Rode and is one of the most impressive examples of late medieval Hanseatic art in Europe, especially due to its grand size, measuring approximately 6 x 3.5 metres.

The project is special due to the collaborative nature of the research. In addition to researching and restoring the altarpiece, another aim of the study was to bring together the specialised scientific resources of technical research in Estonia. Within the framework of the Rode project, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the fields of science and the humanities have worked closely together and have created valuable new knowledge concerning one of Estonia’s most important works of art. Comparative studies of other works attributed to Rode’s workshop were also incorporated. The new knowledge which has emerged from this research forms the basis for further development in the heritage field in Estonia, Europe and beyond.

“This highly complex project has succeeded to coordinate and make use of international resources to restore this splendid altarpiece in situ. The enthusiastic and open-minded team has achieved this incredible result with a relatively modest budget”, stressed the jury. “The project represents absolute best practice in painting and sculptural conservation and research and is a huge achievement in interdisciplinary and international collaboration”, added the Jury. 

The results of the work have been brought together in a web-based media portal on the topic of the Talinn and Lübeck altarpieces which includes high resolution and infrared photographs of the painting. This excellent online presentation ensures that the results of the study are open and accessible to the general public and specialists the world over.

EAA’s Department of Cultural Heritage and Conservation contributed to the project as a partner:

Project coordinator: Dr Hilkka Hiiop;

Team members: Hedi Kard, Grete Nilp, Kaisa-Piia Pedajas, Andres Uueni 

Rode Interactive Altar

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The Estonian annual museum awards, or Museum Rats, were awarded at a gala at the Estonian National Museum on 27 January. The Museum Council by the Ministry of Culture awarded the prize for the best scientific project of the year to the Art Museum of Estonia, where the Rode Altarpiece in Close-up project was carried out under the direction of Hilkka Hiiop (Art Museum of Estonia, Estonian Academy of Arts). Congratulation to all team members including the ones from EAA: Hedi Kard, Kaisa-Piia Pedajas, Grete Nilp and Andres Uueni.

Find out more about the project

The Annual Museum Awards for 2016

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Since December, people in Tallinn, Estonia have been able to climb a 10-metre wooden set of stairs and come face to face with the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Four Evangelists and Jesus Christ as well as other baroque sculptures adorning the 17th century altar of St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of the upper city in medieval Tallinn. The students of the Estonian Academy of Arts have built a gigantic black staircase-scaffolding-installation around the altar of the church in order to help conservation experts to gain access to the the nine metre high wooden baroque altar carved by the talented and controversial baroque master Christian Ackermann. For Christmas, the huge installation was transformed into a kind of advent calendar, with the rows of pathways slowly filling with christmas trees.

The project has received praise from both conservators and the church congregation alike. The head of the conservation project, Estonian Academy of Arts Conservation Department Associate Professor Hilkka Hiiop explains that the idea to develop the staircase project was inspired by the feeling that regular scaffolding too often dominates the inside of a church or any other heritage building, and feels out of sync with its environment. The conservators and the church also thought that building a different, more substantial installation would also allow visitors to climb up and get a completely different vista of the church interior as well as a much closer view of the altar sculptures. The scaffolding installation was designed by Estonian Academy of Arts interior architecture students after a week-long workshop focussing on the history and context of the location.

Commenting on the project, the head of the interior architecture department of the academy, professor Hannes Praks said that the department loves choosing co-operation projects that push students to dive into uncharted waters: be it historical, cultural or spatial. The workshop at Tallinn Dome which resulted in the dramatic black installation began with a thorough look into the rich history of the church, especially the big 1684 fire that destroyed most of the interior (and in fact much of the rest of Old Tallinn Toompea), allowing sculptor Christian Ackermann to secure a large scale new altar commission, thus launching his career.

CHRISTIAN ACKERMANN was the most scandalous and talented woodcarver of the Baroque era Estonia. Ackermann received his professional training in Königsberg (Kaliningrad), and while travelling through Danzig (Gdańsk), Stockholm and Riga during his journeyman years. In the beginning of 1680s, Ackermann moved to Toompea with his family where he soon started working on commission from the local nobility and even from the Royal Court. In 1684, after the great fire of Toompea, Ackermann prepared a new pulpit (1686); a retable bearing the initials of Karl XI of Sweden (1694 – 1696) and numerous coat of arms epitaphs for St Mary’s Cathedral, Tallinn. He also executed orders for other churches in Estonia, several retables and pulpits created by Ackermann have survived to our days.

His reputation as a superb craftsman has not only worked for Ackermann’s favor, but also against. Therefore, it is still uncertain whether the works attributed to Ackermann are in fact all his creations, or whether the carvings of some unknown master could actually have been made by his hand.

The aim of the ongoing research project is to identify the nature of Ackermann’s retable in close-up, and to find out how closely does it relate to his other works. The investigations are carried out by an interdisciplinary group of professionals who are implementing the most modern technologies in their research. In addition to the altar wall at St Mary’s Cathedral, all pulpits, baptistery, retables and other valuable art objects attributed to Ackermann will be examined in the coming years.

The conservation research project looking into the altar is led by historian and Ackermann expert Tiina-Mall Kreem from the Art Museum of Estonia, conservators Hilkka Hiiop and Isabel Aaso-Zahradnikova from Estonian Academy of Arts, art historians Anneli Randla and Juhan Kilumets. Estonian Academy of Arts conservation students are also involved in the project. Visitors planning to climb to the top of the installation have to book a tour by calling the church at +372 644 4140 or by e-mailing tallinna.toom@eelk.ee.

3D Images of the sculptures

Additional information:

Hilkka Hiiop

Associate Professor of the Estonian Academy of Arts Cultural Heritage and Conservation Department

+372 565 779 80


For the Press

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