The topic of Latvia’s independence war between 1918 and 1920 has been studied at a comparatively small degree. During the 20th century, the topic was hushed up or even altered,so most people do not really understand it. The Tukums Museum has an exhibition at the Durbe Manor House that is titled “For Motherland and Latvia: 1918-1920,” and it is meant to help to history teachers and schoolchildren so that they can better understand this topic. The exhibition offers a look at various aspects of the war for independence,particularly focusing on the role of the Baltic Landeswehr aspect.

The Bolsheviks nationalised the Durbe Estate in January 1919. Many wealthy people perished during the period of red terror, including three members of the von der Recke family, the owners of the Estate. The Durbe Manor House stood empty for several months. In July 1919, when the Latvian Army was being organised, a military hospital for the Baltic Landeswehr was installed at the Durbe Elisabeth von Hirchheydt (1898-1945), also known as Lisi. On July 30, 1919, she celebrated her 21st birthday there, and a volunteer from the Landeswehr, German physician Alfred Trost (1891-1953) proposed marriage to her that suggest that the nurse also experienced tragedy.

Once, her seriously injured brother ended up at the field hospital, and later died. These stories inspired the museum to establish the programme “Time Travel to 1919.”

The programme has received financing from the State Cultural Capital Fund, in Latvia, which made it possible to create costumes for participants . The fund also made the acquisition of n various props and objects, necessary to depict a field hospital, possible. The content was prepared by the TukumsMuseum in close partnership with teachers from the Brocēni High School. The team drafted recommendations for history teachers instructing them on how best to explain the war of independence to students, using an interdisciplinary approach. The teachers assisted with the production of a short educational film, “Lisi’s Story. 1919,” which starred several distinguished Latvian actors.

At the beginning of the museum visit, museum educators lead students to the exhibition so that they can learn by studying objects such as newspapers and documents, and reading fragments of the memoirs of historical people. Visitors also watch the movie “Lisi’s Story. 1919”. This allows young people to understand more easily the historical situation and understand how tragic that event was. After the film, each student receives an individual role and assignments that must be performed during the process – organising the field hospital, preparing medical materials, awaiting injured people and helping them, and preparing a simple meal for the group. Evidence from historical testimony allows the organisers of the programme to include a situation in which the Hospital of Landeswehr brought an injured left-wing soldier.

This leads to a discussion about whether a person with different beliefs should receive first aid. By engaging in practical assignments, students are encouraged to consider and discuss each situation so as to understand the views and emotions of various people during a war. Roles, costumes, museum objects and historical interiors differ from the student’s everyday life, and that helps to change his or her behaviour so they can better identify with historical individuals from Latvia’s war for Independence.

After the programme, the students return to the exhibition, examine objects and photographs of their role prototypes and discuss what they have experienced. Museum pedagogues encourage them to compare the events of the past to the present day, express their views about the future of the country and to talk about their attitudes about the future.

Inese Schimane

Museum Educator