The museum collection of negatives and photographs comprises about 180 000 keeping items and includes the works made in the period from 1860 to 2000.
The museum fund of negatives and photographs numbers about 180 000 keeping items and includes the works made in the period from 1860 to 2000. The photographs provide brilliant and comprehensive insight into the traditional aspects of life of the peoples of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and modern Russia. One can see on the photographs the people of different nationalities doing traditional kinds of works, rearing children, participating in festivities, performing ritual acts. The photographs depict their towns, villages, kishlaks, auls, cities, and cult buildings: the Orthodox and Catholic temples, churches, chapels, the Old Believers prayer houses, Protestant kirks, synagogues, pagodas, datsans, shaman chums; their dwellings: izbas, chums, yurts, saklyas, fanzas; bazaars, fairs, small markets, shops with various goods put for sale, sellers and customers.
The images tell about casual and festive costumes of people, allow to see in detail the sets of objects included in them, to understand the manner of wearing clothes: the way of tying kerchief or tucking the poneva skirt, fastening apron or putting on complex headdress, and to feel how amazingly well the folk costumes were figured out and how beautiful were people in them. The most important is that the photographs permit to look at the faces of people gone years ago, to see their smiles and their hesitation before the photographic camera, to understand the world in which the ancestors lived and to know how it was gradually changed and how it has changed.
The First Creators of Collection
All this wealth already started to be accumulated in museum in the first years of its existence. The first large photographic collections came from the artist S. M. Dudin worked by the commission of museum in the Central Asia in 1900-1902. They were followed by the photographs of the Central Asian peoples from P. N. Beketov, M. A. Krukovsky, E. E. Ukhtomsky. The life of Siberian peoples was reflected in the photographs of P.E. Ostrovskikh, F. Ya. Kon, D. A. Klements, A.A. Makarenko, A. V. Adrianov and I.V. Popov. In 1902—1905 the collection was replenished by the photographs made in Russian villages and Ukrainian towns by the museum curators E.A. Laytski and N. M. Mogylyansky, F.K. Volkov and the correspondents worked by the museum commission I.A. Zaretsky, V. A. Babenko and A.M. Vysotsky.
In 1903 and in the following years of the first decade the collections of the peoples of Caucasus gathered by D.I. Ermakov, A.S. Piralov, N.S. Derzhavin, A.A. Mlokosevich and others entered the museum. Later the replenishment of the museum collection with photographs and negatives was carried out by different ways. In general the photographs made by the museum fellows and professional photographers specially hired for this work entered the museum. These pictures are original and sometime unrepeatable in their content.
From Private Collection
The private collections of photographs were also acquired and are acquiring today for the museum photographic fund. The collections of the photographer D.I. Ermakov, who took pictures in Caucasus in 1879-1916, the photographs of the famous photographer and statistician A.F. Rittikh made in the middle XIX century among the peoples of the Volga Region, deserve particular attention.
Rare Replenishments from Museums
The photographic fund of the museum also includes the collections received from various institutions of country, dissolved in different periods. Among them the photographs received in 1948 from the State Museum of the Peoples of the USSR in quantity of 20000 keeping items have particular value. They comprise the photographs of the peoples of the Russian Empire in traditional costumes taken by made by professional photographers for the Ethnographic Exhibition of 1867 in Moscow. The collection of photographs of 1880-1890 about the culture of the peoples of Caucasus handed from the Leningrad Division of the State Museum Foundation and the photographs of the Ashkenazi Jews from the liquidated Jewish Museum of Odessa are also interesting. The collections received from the Leningrad State University in 1966 and from the Shokalsky Museum are equally valuable. The photographs taken in the second half of the XIX century provide an insight into the life of the Russian people and the peoples of the Central Asia and Siberia.
The Photographs of the Information Services
In 1960-1980 the photographs from such organizations as the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, the Press Agency “Novosti” and the information services of the Soviet Republics started to enter the museum. They are taken by photo-journalists and they are reports about the life of the Soviet country. In general these are photographs of the Soviet festivals and ceremonies and performances of folkloric groups.
In respect of its content and diversity of themes the photographic material gathered in museum possesses irrefutable research value as a full-fledged independent documentary source for study of daily life and culture of the peoples of Eurasia.