NUKU Museum of Puppet Arts

Anna-Liisa Õispuu

Leader of the exposition team, Head of Foreign Relations

NUKU Museum of Puppet Arts

NUKU Lai 1 10133 Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian Museums Award for Marketer of the Year 2010

NUKU Museum of Puppet Arts - interactive museum for the whole family

NUKU Museum of Puppet Arts breaks the borders of the museum traditions. The museum brings the child with parents to the interactive theatrical puppetry world: multi touch screens full of virtual information, moving theatre puppets, labyrinth exhibitions. (*Nuku means puppet`s in Estonian language.) NUKU Museum of Puppet Arts is situated in the historical building in the Old Town of Estonian capital Tallinn and was opened on March 7, 2010. The museum is mixture of unique historical interior mingled with modern and innovative exposing solutions. The museum gives the visitor an exclusive possibility to peep in to the theatre and puppetry world behind the curtains: look how the puppet makers create the puppets, learn the different types of puppets by making them move through the touch screens, find out about the history of puppetry and theatre by entering the virtual world of the multi touch screens.Besides the museum exhibitions, the visitor can participate in the puppet making workshops, play different types of puppet theatre and take part in the theatre history lectures.

The NUKU Museum is one of the firsts to use unique RQ code tickets, which identify and guide visitors according to their target group and using one of four languages. As one of the latest innovations, NUKU Museum gives its information via screens based on the multi touch system familiar to users of the iPhone. The multi-touch screens display different topics related to the theatre topics. On the screen the visitor can choose: the language and the level of difficulty: easy (fairytale-like stories about the history of puppet theatre to the primary school pupils in capital letters), medium (a summarised overview of the history of puppetry arts), difficult (a detailed overview of the history of puppetry art with many links, articles and visual materials).

As soon as the visitor has filled in his/her profile, there is no need to select the language and level of difficulty on the screens. You simply have to show your code to the screen camera, and the text in the right language and level of difficulty will automatically be displayed.

The goal of the NUKU Museum is to introduce all the aspects of puppet theatre and exhibit theatre puppets of both local and foreign origin. Modern expositions and exciting technical solutions on tens of touch screens give everyone a chance to take a look behind the scenes and learn about the history of puppet theatre.

The museum is a part of the NUKU Centre for Puppetry Art, which also includes the Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre and Research Centre for Puppetry Art. The majority of the exposition comprises the theatre puppets depicting the history of puppet theatre art in Estonia and the world to visitors through puppets, words and pictures.



The Museum starts already on the street where the performances of the mechanical STEAM THEATRE can be watched on the faccedil;ade. The shows start every half and full hour. In addition, everybody can start the show by calling a Steam Theatre number (free of charge).
Steam theatre is a mechanical world of puppets in which everything lives and moves with the power of steam. The exposition conveys the sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy called steampunk.


The building of the Museum is connected to the building of the Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre with the underground tunnel.

The exposition begins in the tunnel with UNDERSTAGE - the exhibition of old puppet play posters to give an overview of poster design over the years. In addition to posters, the visitors can admire the very varied costumes in the costume collection of the Puppet Theatre.

The tunnel lies in the historical place with the ruins of the medieval city wall of Tallinn. The visitors can find themselves admiring the three medieval wells, a water drainage channel and stove from under the glass floor, look for the treasures hidden in the corners of the walls and throw a coin into one of the medieval wells - the WISHING WELL to make a wish!

The medieval arched basement level of the museum boasts a wondrous picture machine ARCH OF STARS with a video screen and 160 coloured buttons - the digital archive of the 60-year-old Estonian State Puppet and Youth Theatre. Pressing a button, the machine will play the voices of people who have worked in the theatre over the years in extracts of their roles, the songs they have sung and their thoughts.

The underground exposition ends with TUNNEL OF PROPS. In the cupboards one can see the things used as substitutes for the real-life objects and dishes.

Ground floor

The ground floor tour starts with FERDINAND'S CHAMBER, dedicated to Ferdinand Veike, the founder of the Estonian State Puppet Theatre. The Chamber showcases the most important puppets from the grand master's work and other material about his life.

The exposition HISTORY OF PUPPET ARTS IN ESTONIA is dedicated to the history of puppet theatre in Estonia from 1630, when the data refer to the first travelling puppetry troupe visiting Estonia, to the founding of the Estonian State Puppet Theatre. This is the room where one will see the oldest puppets in Estonia that have survived. Via the multitouch screens the visitors can obtain thousands of pages and photos with the information about the puppetry history.

HISTORY OF ESTONIAN STATE PUPPET THEATRE gives the history of the Estonian State Puppet Theatre since its establishment in 1952 to the present day.
In COIN CHAMBER the visitors can stamp a golden coin into a medallion and take it home as a souvenir from the NUKU Museum.

In the exposition room of WORLD PUPPETS every screen displays a museum puppet that can be made to move itself by pressing the button. One can learn about the history of puppet theatre around the world and see the different types of puppets.

TREASURY OF THE GUESTS is the room where the temporary guest exhibitions from Estonia or abroad are displayed every 3 months.

In the medieval cellar is situated the CELLAR OF HORRORS - the hideout of horror puppets: spiders, cannibals, monsters, ghost soldiers and scary masks there. Visitors can wake the Snow White from the dead and watch the skeletons dance.

1st floor

On the 1st floor the visitors can observe the everyday work of the PUPPET MASTERS AND SCULPTORS and see how the carcasses, control mechanisms and dummies are made. The peek into the workshops is made by walking on the GLASS BRIDGE. In E-POST OFFICE, using the visitor's code, everybody can design a souvenir with their own photo as one of the stage characters of the Puppet Theatre, send it to your own or your friend's mail box and order museum souvenirs from the ticket office. PUPPET STORAGE shows the puppets waiting to be completed and fixed. Visitors get an overview of the different stages of puppet-making and they also see what is inside a puppet.

2nd and 3rd floors

On the 2nd is situated the PUPPETRY RESEARCH CENTRE with the Estonian only puppetry library, collection of puppetry video recordings, archives. Also the Estonian office of UNIMA, the Worldwide Puppetry Organisation has its headquarters there. On the 3rd floor the exhibition of the models of the puppetry performance venues are exposed. Additionally, the visitors can peep into the dressing rooms of the PUPPET ACTORS.


In addition to a tour of the museum, visitors can participate in PUPPET MAKING WORKSHOPS, where children can use different techniques and materials to make shadow, finger and rod puppets, and marionettes. Visitors can enjoy performances by actors of the Estonian Puppet and Youth Theatre within the scope of THE MUSEUM COMES TO LIFE programme, which takes place in the museum's courtyard. The programme includes several short performances, where actors use puppets from the museum and make them come to life. These performances are free for visitors of the museum.

For the children groups the ADVENTUROUS MUSEUM GAMES are organised with different educative themes. The Museum also organises themed events and museum days relating to significant days in the calendar and children can also have their birthday parties in the museum. By 2012 the NUKU Museum is going to wider the activities and facilities of the visitors` puppet making and puppet playing workshops, lecture rooms and educative training rooms by renovating the basement of the Teatre building. In international level the NUKU Museum is going to develop the coordination of the worldwide exchange of puppetry-based information and research.


Author of the conception and leader of the creation:     Mr Meelis Pai
Leader of the renovations:                 Mr Rain Raabel
Leader of the exposition:                 Ms Anna-Liisa Otilde;ispuu
Designer of the exposition:                 Mr Kalju Kivi
Designers of the interior:         Ms Liis Lindvere, Ms Raili Paling,
Ms Margit Argus (KOKO Architects)
Leader of the IT-solutions:         Mr Madis Raidaru


- Estonian Enterprise, financed by the European Regional Development Fund (90 %)
- Estonian Culture Ministry (10%)


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