“Latvians Abroad” Museum – Collection, Outreach, Accreditation

The Museum “Latvians Abroad” (“Latvieši pasaulē” or LaPa, for short) is the only institution in the world that is entirely devoted to compiling and exhibiting the activities of Latvians around the globe. Last year the Museum Board set the goal of gaining state accreditation from the Latvian Ministry of Culture, because accreditation will add the Museum’s collection to Latvian cultural heritage, thus ensuring its long-term viability and availability, and open up more government support.

We are happy to report that during 2019  the Museum  has moved significantly closer to that goal. Thanks to donations from members of the diaspora and in Latvia as well as some support from the Latvian government, the Museum Board was able to hire a full-time collections manager. She has started a systematic, detailed and extensive description of the more than 8000 units in the collection, according to the rules for accredited Latvian museums. But the task is huge, and we have realized that in order to bring the collection in compliance with all the elaborate rules for accreditation, we will need to hire another collections staff member in 2020.

The work with accreditation is only one aspect of the activities of the “Latvians Abroad” Museum last year. The major new undertaking for the year has been the Exhibit and Escape room Refugee Paths about the experiences of refugees as they fled Latvia during the waning days of World War II. It is open to all interested persons in groups of up to 7 and has become one of the most popular programs for secondary school field trips in Latvia. Come visit us! You can set up a date by calling +371 2657 2789 or writing to lapainfo@gmail.com.

The three exhibits that Museum staff and associated experts created for Latvia’s centennial last year have continued to be available to the public in various venues. The hugely popular Story Quilt can now be viewed online. It was also exhibited at Sēļu Mansion in Vidzeme during the summer.  The multimedia exhibit I, too, am a Latvian, was exhibited in Liepāja and Vidzeme University in Valmiera. The travelling exhibit Song Festivals Outside Latvia  was exhibited in the Song Festivals in Ireland and Canada, as well as at six venues in Latvia. Our Museum’s materials form a part of and can still be viewed at the joint centenary exhibit at the Latvian National History Museum.  In addition, some materials are also deposited to other memory institutions in Latvia and abroad and can be viewed in their exhibits.

Every month we show an Object of the Month with its story and the wider context in the Latvian National Library atrium.

To reach out in a more personal way to people interested in diaspora history and questions, we held four Fall LaPa Outreach and Discussion Evenings on topics of interest to the Museum and the diaspora.

During field work in Norway we collected new, valuable materials for the Museum, including objects and stories from recent emigrants from Latvia. We receive new and valuable historic items every day that attest to the activities of Latvians abroad during various periods in history. Last year the Museum accepted 1682 new items, for a total of more than 8000.

All this has been accomplished with very modest financing and a small staff.

For the next year the museum’s goals are:

  • to finish processing the collection for accreditation,
  • to continue our outreach and work with schools; and
  • to build a major exhibition about emigre anti-Soviet activities, Nyet, Nyet Soviet, to be shown at the Railroad Museum in the summer of 2020.

Even though the Museum has made great strides in bringing the collection in compliance with prescribed norms and fulfilling the other obligations for accreditation, it has become obvious to us that the job is too huge for one person alone. Therefore, the Museum is having a fundraising campaign to raise $20,000 in order to hire another collections staff member in 2020. We are happy that a supporter has offered to donate $5000, but only if the Museum raises another $15,000 by Dec. 31, 2019.

Donations to the Museum can be made in several ways:

From Latvia and elsewhere:  Electronic funds transfer to the museum’s bank account (please indicate the name, address and email of the donor):
“Latvieši pasaulē – muzejs un pētniecības centrs”
Swedbank account nr. LV15HABA0551018556914,
Registration nr. 40008119789

Via credit card, follow instructions on the Museum’s webpage.

US residents can receive a tax break for their donations. Write checks out to:

Latvian Diaspora Museum Fund, c/o M. Voldins, 131 Langdon St, Newton, MA 02458, USA

Canadian residents can receive a tax break for donations through the Daugavas Vanagi Kanāda, noting that the donation is meant for “LaPa Muzejs”. Cheques can be made out to the “Latvian Relief Society of Canada – Daugavas Vanagi”.

Postal address:  Ms. Gunta Reynolds, Daugavas Vanagi Kanādā, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto, ON M4A 2N8  

Folklorists Rūta and Valdis Muktupāvels tour North America

Latvian folklore duo Rūta and Valdis Muktupāvels are performing throughout the United States and Canada, and one of their stops included a performance at the Latvian Lutheran Church in Yonkers, New York, on Saturday, November 16th, as part of the Latvian independence celebration event.

Their performance included Latvian folk songs from all the historical regions of Latvia, including Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Latgale, Zemgale, as well as Selonia (Sēlija). Additionally, the duo performed songs from throughout the Baltic region, including songs from Lithuania, ancient Prussia and Yotvingia.

Rūta and Valdis Muktupāvels perform in a very traditional and authentic style, singing either unaccompanied or with a single instrument. The repertoire was varied, with folk songs of many styles and themes, from wedding songs to dances to children’s songs. The duo incorporated many different instruments in their performance, including the kokle, vargāns (Jew’s harp), guitar, bagpipes, among others.

They were joined by the students of the Yonkers and New Jersey Latvian schools for three songs – two Latvian folk songs ‘Ar vilciņu Rīgā braucu’ and ‘Maza, maza ābelīte’, as well as an original work by Valdis Muktupāvels, ‘Mīl katrs baltu maizes riku’ (words by Imants Ziedonis).

This concert and the duo’s tour were made possible by the Latvian Cultural Society TILTS, with support from the World Federation of Free Latvians (PBLA), the Latvian Ministry of Culture, as well as the American Latvian Association (ALA).

For further information, please visit the TILTS website.

Photo: Kristina Rathode

Rūta Muktupāvela and Valdis Muktupāvels at the Latvian Lutheran Church in Yonkers, NY with the New Jersey and Yonkers Latvian Schools’ combined children’s choir.

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

Second global Latvian émigré and return migrant survey launched

A team of researchers at the University of Latvia has launched a survey on current migration-related themes, with responses welcomed from those Latvians who live outside Latvia permanently or semi-permanently, as well as those who have returned or moved to Latvia after living or working abroad. This is the second large-scale survey of its kind being conducted in Latvia.

The study is being carried out within the frame of the project “Wellbeing and integration in the context of migration”, financed by the Latvian Council of Science. The aim of the survey is to find out how Latvians living abroad feel, providing in-depth analysis in a number of areas that are important for émigrés, including the availability of health care services, psychological wellbeing, integration into the labour market and the assessment of skills abroad and in Latvia etc.

The greatest focus will be on changes to the lives and future plans of those people who have left Latvia, what has motivated or hindered them from returning to Latvia. In short – the central theme is the wellbeing of emigrants and return migrants. However, in this survey, the response from exiled (trimda) Latvians and their descendants is especially welcomed – to be able to make a more precise assessment of the size of the Latvian diaspora.

The survey is open and may be completed by 31st October in Latvian or in English.  Recognising people’s time constraints, there is an option to either complete a shorter or longer version of the survey.

The first study of this kind was conducted in 2014 in the frame of the project “The Emigrant Communities of Latvia”, financed by the European Social Fund and became the largest survey in Europe of the diaspora of one country, with responses from 14 068 people. Due to the great response from Latvians and Latvian nationals living abroad, the survey resonated widely in Latvian society and dispelled many stereotypes that persisted regarding those of Latvian descent living abroad.

The survey methodology and results laid the groundwork not only for the systematic gathering of information on the experiences and lives of the Latvian diaspora in general but also highlighted the need to understand return migration processes, opportunities and restrictions, the motivation for return which was studied in-depth in the University of Latvia project «Returning to Latvia».

Summaries of results of the previous studies are available here (in Latvian).

Inta Mieriņa ir projekta "Labklājība un integrācija migrācijas kontekstā" zinātniskā vadītāja, ieguvusi socioloģijas doktora grādu Latvijas Universitātes Sociālo Zinātņu fakultātē.