The Museum of Applied Art and Design (ETDM) is located in a former granary that was called “the city granary” in the old days. Construction work of the three-storey granary started in 1683; most probably the building was finished by 1695 (unfortunately the name of the master builder is unknown). Ground plan-wise, the building is a slightly irregular rectangle. The façade is exposed to the yard; the wall facing the street and that facing the yard are almost similar. Toward the street stands a 36-36,8 meters long sidewall instead of a meagre 16,7 meters long end wall as usual at the time. In accordance with the baroque requirement for symmetry, all openings or portals, the hatches for goods, and windows are grouped on seven axes. The architecture harmonizes with the laconic and sturdy interior, where dominate massive rectangular pillars that divide all three floors into two naves. The district architect J.D.Bantelmann made some reconstructions in 1823-1824 after the project.
In the 1970s the building was restored after the project by the architect Aala Buldas and adapted for an applied art museum. The design, lighting and expositional system of the first exposition of the museum was devised by the interior architect Mait Summatavet.
The idea to establish a specialized museum began to evolve alongside with the development of applied art becoming the hallmark of Estonian culture during the second half of the 1950s. The institution was founded on the 24th of November 1971 and the Museum of Applied Art opened its doors as a branch of the Estonian National Art Museum on the 18th of July 1980.
On the 1st of February 2004 the Museum of Applied Art became the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, operating as an independent state museum under the administration of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia.
The art museum founded in 1919 owned also a collection of applied art. In addition to the West-European applied art, it consisted of the works of Estonian applied artists, mainly including ceramics, leatherwork and tapestry. Much of the Estonian applied art was destroyed during the Second World War. An active and systematic accumulation of Estonian applied art began again in mid-1950s. In 2000 began the establishment of design collection in order to retain the samples of Estonian product design and industrial art, but also the original products of designers. When the Museum of Foreign Art was opened in the year of 2000 in Kadriorg Palace, the collection of foreign applied art collection was transferred there.
The museum collection has accumulated on the basis of state-financed purchases and donations. The entire process of compiling the collection is complicated and long-lasting, wherefore some shortcomings unavoidably exist, but efforts have been made to recoup those later. Since the 1990s, the museum improves its collections independently on the grounds of the decisions taken by museum’s purchase committee. In the period of 1995-2003, the collection has extended its stocks with contemporary art as financed by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
In total, the museum has over 13 000 museological articles divided into textile, ceramics, porcelain-, leather-, glass-, jewellery-, metal-, furniture- and design collections. Apart from the item collections, there exist the collections of photos, negatives and slides, as well as the archives. The museum collection is the most valuable and extensive compilation of professional Estonian applied art and design.
In 1982 started systematic exhibition activities in addition to the permanent exposition on the history of Estonian applied art. Throughout the score of decades there have been arranged over 100 thematic, retrospective and personal exhibitions of Estonian applied art and design. Since 1984, the museum has acted as the mediator of cultural merits from other countries on more than 50 occasions. Promoting Estonian applied art abroad began in 1989. Since 1997 the museum has organized international triennials of applied art in cooperation with the non-profit organization Tallinn Applied Art Triennial Society.