Angelina Pjatkovskaja

Permanent exhibition at the Old Observatory

The Old Observatory in Tartu is a unique building, where science has changed humanity’s understanding of the Earth and the universe. As part of the Struve Geodetic Arc, the Old Observatory belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The exhibition halls tell about astronomy, geodesy and seismology.


Lobby and Eastern Hall 

The lobby presents the geodetic measurements made by Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which proved that the Earth is indeed spherical. This knowledge left such an indelible mark in the history of science that the observatory was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The measurements made by Struve and Carl Friedrich Tenner were the most extensive of their time and reached from Northern Europe to the Black Sea. To commemorate the measurement work, the measurement point in Tartu is marked on the floor of the lobby.  

In the Eastern Hall, visitors are greeted by historic telescopes of various sizes, the most special of which is the world-famous Fraunhofer lens telescope. 

Clock Room and Western Hall

In the Clock Room, you can find out how time was measured in Estonia between the two world wars and learn about the importance and meaning of time in astronomy. The room also tells the story of Ernst Öpik, who was the first to determine the distance to the Andromeda Nebula, proving that there are galaxies outside the Milky Way.  

The Western Hall offers exciting activities for both young and old. Next to the wall stands that present the development of astronomy and Estonian astronomers, you can gaze at luminous constellations, study the model of the Solar System, count meteors or try your strength against pieces of meteorites. 

From the basement to the tower

From the first floor you can access the basement to view exhibitions about seismology and about Earth in the universe. You will find out what is inside, on, and above the Earth.  

Going up the stairs, you will find yourself in an unusually constructed tower that houses the Zeiss lens telescope. The tower dates from 1825 and was designed to be rotated by hand. The tower has a balcony that offers a great view of the centre of Tartu.  


Getting around 

  • The three larger exhibition rooms (Eastern Hall, Clock Room and Western Hall) are located on the first floor of the building. 
  • There is no elevator in the Old Observatory. The planetarium, the tower and the balcony can only be accessed via a narrow stone staircase, the ceiling of which is low in some places.  
  • There are no thresholds at the main entrance of the observatory and between the lobby and the Eastern and Western Halls. The other doors have low thresholds, except for the door between the Clock Room and the Western Hall, which has a high threshold. The Western Hall can also be entered from the lobby, the door of which does not have a threshold.  


  • Both the Eastern Hall and the highest floor of the stairwell are illuminated with natural light. The remaining exhibitions are lit either by ceiling lamps or directional lights.  
  • There is no background soundtrack to the observatory’s exhibitions. 

Read about the accessibility of the entire building here.  

Project team

Project leaders: Lea Leppik, Reet Mägi, Viljar Valder 

Museum team: Valmar Evert, Helle Jaaniste, Leili Kriis, Janet Laidla, Virge Lell, Terje Lõbu, Reet Mägi, Urmet Paloveer, Toomas Pung, Mariann Raisma, Margot Sakson, Sirje Sisask, Aile Tammiste, Kadri Tinn, Maris Tuuling, Raivo Uustare, Toomas Vahtra 

Design: Laika, Belka ja Strelka OÜ  

Design of information kiosks: Velvet DP OÜ  

Language editor: Reves Grupp OÜ  

Translations: Avatar OÜ  

IT equipment: Astro Baltics OÜ  

Designer of audio, video and educational systems: Helimees OÜ  

Furnishings: Supra Mööbel OÜ, Rakvere RLR OÜ  

Print: Brand Factory Estonia OÜ  

Restoration of the large Fraunhofer refractor: Paolo Brenni  

Restoration of the Zeiss refractor: Maico Metrics OÜ  

Restoration of instruments: Kanut Restoration Centre  

Furniture restoration: Mööbli Restauraator OÜ  

Repair of the planetarium: Autoseir OÜ  

Model teaching aids: Estrotech OÜ  

Transport: KLG Eesti AS, AVA-Ekspress OÜ