In 1803, the University of Tartu founded an Art Museum, which moved into its Main Building in 1809. The Director of the Museum, Professor Karl Morgenstern (1770–1852), had by this time filled the Museum with remarkable objects, which were used to illustrate lectures and develop the artistic taste of the students.
The University of Tartu Art Museum represented the universal museum of the time and had a diverse collection, as was common during the Age of Enlightenment. The Museum collected engravings, paintings, drawings, Egyptian and Oriental relics, coins, gems and their plaster prints, original antique artwork and copies.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Museum specialised in collecting only ancient art. We began an organised and systematic replenishment of the collection of plaster moulds of the best works of antique art. We also purchased ancient pottery, when possible.
Since 1868, the Art Museum has been housed in the left wing of the Main Building. The Pompeian style murals also originate from this time.
In 1915, in order to escape World War I, the original collections of the Museum were evacuated, which resulted in the Museum losing many of its coins, antique vases, Egyptian relics and many other important objects. After this time there has been no active replenishment; the collection has grown only through gifts and donations.
Today, the Museum is a colourful and artful island in the Main Building, offering both educational and creative activities for families, students, schoolchildren, kindergarteners, tourists and conference participants. We also arrange visits to the University Assembly Hall and the historical student lock-up in the attic.