Crime and Punishment: University Lock-up

The attic of the Main Building of the University, from 19 April 2018

In the attic of the University of Tartu main building is a small, mysterious room that bears witness to the time when the university had its own separate legal system. In the 19th Century, minor offences committed by university employees and students were in the jurisdiction of the university’s court. For the more serious ones, student offenders could be punished by having to spend time at the lock-up in the attic of the main building.

In 2018 the University of Tartu Art Museum supplemented its lock-up cell with a new exhibition that tells stories of the misdeeds of the 19th Century students. The exhibition explains the main reasons why students were punished in the last decades of the 19th Century, and how severe the punishments may have been. The visitors will also see what kind of messages the students in lock-up left behind in the form of writings and drawings on the walls.

Only one of the historic lock-ups has survived, the rest were destroyed in the main building fire of 1965. Access to the surviving lock-up and the attic of the main building is available with a museum ticket from the University of Tartu Art Museum.