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The exhibition "New Additions to the Collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography"


For more than 120 years the museum carries out the mission formulated by its founders to create the “ethnic portrait” of the peoples of Russia and neighboring countries and to show their “ethnic individuality striking by astonishing brilliance of their inherent specific facets of their exterior and spiritual daily life”.

The exhibition acquaints with the museum’s achievements in collection of funds during the last decade. In course of this period museum fellows brought from ethnographic expeditions and received from private persons - collectors and keepers of family relics about 5000 items. The most unique artifacts and the objects reflecting various trends of the museum’s collecting work were selected for exhibition.  Among them are the pieces of XIX-early XX cc., which are found  less and less frequently  and every new acquisition is great success allowing to broaden the notions about traditional world of objects of various peoples. The important acquisitions are the objects of the Soviet time in which shape, material, patterns and use reflect the processes of evolution and modernizations of traditional culture. It was particularly obvious in the case of costume, therefore, acquisition of festive and casual clothes and jewelry was especially significant. Special attention was paid to collection of objects characterizing the peculiarities of everyday culture of local and subethnic groups of different peoples and the population in the areas of contact residence of various ethnic groups.

Surviving of folk costume in present time predominantly as a base for creation of costumes for participants of folk ensembles and designer clothes in ethnic style made relevant their acquisition as examples of new forms of traditions’ development. Significant importance also had acquisition of  objects of applied arts and crafts of past epochs as well as the works of modern artists: ceramics, textiles, ornamented in various techniques,painted and carved wooden pieces, decorative items, examples of decorative applied arts. Today most of them haven't practical use, however, they are widespread as souvenirs, decorative interior items, examples of decorative applied arts and are among the most persistent and expressive  ethnic symbols. Modern ethnocultural processes also promoted particular attention to religious culture. During past decade the museum’s collection was noticeably replenished with  the attributes not only of religious practices and festivals related to folk beliefs which have been always collecting in the museum but also linked with Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.  

The exhibition is arranged by regional principle; each scientific department of museum  specialized in studies of certain ethnos acquaints with the most important exhibits entered  its funds.

The Department of the Ethnography of the Russian People

About 2000 objects entered the Department of Ethnography of Russian People In the past ten years.  A significant part of them is the products of folk trades and crafts, the articles of clothing, items of interior design and utensils. The Department’s funds were replenished with famous toy whistles of Dymkovo, Kargopol, Filimonovo and other centers, vast collection of painted spoons from Ust’ Tzil’ma on the Pechora River in the Republic of Komi, textile pieces with quilted  ornaments from the Arkhangelskaya Oblast.

Among them there are both the works of the twentieth century and production of modern craftsmen reflecting development of folk and decorative arts over the course of almost one hundred years. For the first time the pottery from the town of Somovo in the Vologodskya Oblast entered the museum’s collection, although it has more than centennial history, Among the items of traditional costume entered the Department’s funds the main parts of woman headdresses soroki and  podzatylni  dated by the late nineteenth century and the elements of clothes  decorated with embroidery and patterned weaving acquired in expedition to the Ves’gonsky District of Tverskya Oblast have particular scientific and museum value. They are important supplement to the collection of the famous Upper VolgaEthnological Expedition in the early 1920s kept in museum. The collection of the items of the Russian house interior was replenished with peasant furniture stunning by richness of its decoration. The collections of religious objects earlier represented by few items were significantly enriched.  Among them the attributes of religious culture of the various territorial groups of  the Old Believers’ are of particular interest.

The Department of Ethnography of the Peoples of Volga Region and the Urals

In the period from 2010 to 2019 more than 500 exhibits replenished the funds of the Ethnographic Department of the Volga Region and Urals. The main source of replenishment became expedition trips of the Department’s fellows and collection work among Chuvashes, Mari, Mordva, Tartars and Izhma Komi. The purchased objects represent the period from the late XIX century to our days. Significant part is comprised by costumes and separate types of clothes of various peoples of the region dated by 1920-1970s which supplementing museum collections allow to trace last stages of evolution of traditional costume.  About a half of exhibits belongs to the Chuvash culture. Among them are head towels and woman shirts made of patterned handwoven fabric, traditional wedding mantle rare in present time, agricultural tools, ritual and ceremonial objects, unique rowan crosses which were put above the door for protection against evil powers.

The Mari collection was replenished by the objects formerly absent or scarcely represented in its collections, as for instance the instrument for making ropes and loom for weaving Yshty – the “rainbow” belts of the Mountain Mari which are widespread up to  present times, some items dealt with festivals and ritual of family rites. For the first time the collection of homemade children dolls of the Mountain Mari was gathered. New versions of traditional children toys also replenished the toy collections of the Izhma Komi. Important acquisition on Tartar ethnography realized with cooperation of the representatives of Tartar people are the woman costume made for performances of folklore collectives and the set of Islam cult objects.

The Department of the Ethnography of the Peoples of North-West Russia and the Baltic Region

In 2010-2019 a bit more than 300 exhibits entered the funds of the Department of the Ethnography of the Peoples of North-West Russia of North-West Russia and the Baltic Region. Their main part was acquired by the Department’s fellows in the course of expeditionar- collection work. In result of the expedition to the Kola Peninsula the collections of traditional objects s of the Sami daily life were gathered including male hunting costume, children outdoor clothes of reindeer fur, instruments and devices for reindeer harness and fishing, spinning and weaving tools including the unique wooden folded distaff of the early twentieth century earlier absent in the museum collection. Significant collections in respect of their scale and content on the ethnography of the Tver Karelians including one of the disappearing groups the Ves’gon Karelians were gathered. They included painted and carved elements of log houses’ decoration, crafted and the home made furniture of the early XX century, textiles, towels, tablecloths. rugs, embroidery samples, spinning and weaving tools, ritual utensils. Today these objects are usually kept as family relics but in some families they are used to recreate ancient interiors – a sort of family museums.

Small but valuable group of exhibits is the objects of 1930–1950s typical for the Baltic Finno-Ugric peoples: Ingrian Finns, Southern Karelians, Veps, Setu who in present times almost lost the artifacts of their traditional culture during the war, mass migration and repatriation.  The rare acquisition is also the objects of 1930s reflecting peculiarities of the traditional culture of no longer existent multi-ethnic and multiconfessional native population of the border areas in Russia, Latvia and Estonia. For the first time the collections on the ethnography of Baltic Germans were formed as well as the complete set of traditional Livonian woman costume some elements of which belong to the last native speaker of Livonian language. The acquiring of the art pieces of the Latvian and Lithuanian modern folk art including the replicas of costumes, jewelry, crafted objects which in present times are important symbols of their ethnocultural identity continued.

The Department of the Ethnography of the Peoples of Siberia and the Far East

 In last decade the funds of the Department of Ethnography of Siberia and The Far East were replenished with almost 600 objects characterizing various spheres of traditional culture of peoples of this multinational region. A significant part of acquisitions are the artifacts related to the art of walrus ivory carving among Chukchi and Yakuts purchased from the private collections. The museum always paid much attention to development of this unique art, and acquisition of new exhibits: instruments and different works of the carvers on a bone of the twentieth century and the modern ones who develop and reconsider old traditions significantly enriched this thematic set in its collection. The gathering of traditional clothes used by many peoples of the region up to our days and original local utensils made of birch bark among Mansi, woven dishes of Nanai, carved spoons of Ulchi having not only utilitarian importance but also the artistic one and the instruments of fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry which are main occupations of a greater part of the population of the region continued.  Valuable acquisition is the attributes of the Buddhist cult and the costume of the Buddhist priest as a rule seldom entering museum collection.

The Department of Ethnography of the Peoples of Caucasus and Crimea

In last ten years more than 450 exhibits replenished museum collection on ethnography of peoples of Caucasus and Crimea. The greater part of them are carpet pieces, arms, jewelry and articles of clothing dated from the late nineteenth century to our days including production of modern craftsmen used in popular milieu. These are embroidered towels, jewelry and ceramics of Crimean Tartars which are the symbols of culture of this people now, dresses and accessories of artist designer reflecting the notions how the Kabardin woman costume should look today, The objects associated with modern religious practices earlier represented in museum by few items of exclusively Pre-Soviet times  form particular group.

During the past period the Department’s collection was significantly replenished by the articles of clothing and utensils of the peoples of Dagestan – Laks, Dargins and many others. Great success was acquisition of unique embroidered towel made in the Dagestan village Usisha famous by its embroidery traditions. Earlier these pieces were absent in museum collection. The collection of Khevsur clothes significantly replenished museum collection was also valuable acquisition. For the first time the objects of traditional cultures of the Iranian Talyshes entered the museum which allowed to compare them with the everyday objects of Azerbaijanian Talyshes kept in museum and obtain more comprehensive notion about traditional daily culture of this people historically divided between two states. Впервые в музей поступили предметы традиционной культуры талышей Ирана, что позволяет сопоставить их с предметами быта талышей Азербайджана, хранящимися в музее, и получить более полное представление о традиционно-бытовой культуре этого народа, исторически разделенного между двумя государствами.

The Department of Ethnography of the Peoples of Central Asian and Kazakhstan

Over the course of the last decade the funds of the Department of Ethnography of the Peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan were generally replenished thanks to donations from private persons and only some collections were gathered during the expedition trips to the republics of the region. The most significant part is the objects of traditional culture of Tajiks and Uzbeks of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century:  woman dresses and man robes, burkas, embroidered wedding veils, curtains, small sacks for mirror decorated with embroidery or in quilted technique. Similar objects comprised bridal dowry and were used in wedding ritual and were further conserved as the family relics. Several collections of ancient woman jewelry showing the specifics of traditional Uzbek and Tajik art jewelry also entered the Department’s collection. For the first time the collection of objects of traditional everyday culture of the mountain Tajiks entered the museum. It has been gathered during the expedition in mountain villages of Tajikistan undertaken by the museum after almost the 50 year-old pause. The acquisition of Turkmen carpets and carpet works of late nineteenth early twentieth centuries −the unique phenomenon in culture of this people continued.   Important  significance had the objects of the Kazakh and Kirghiz  traditional daily life  which are found less and less frequently and the objects of contemporary folk art,  many of which the museum could received by cooperation of the members of these peoples.

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