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HISTORY OF MUSEUM

Origins and ideas
On the role of outstanding Russian scholars in creation of ethnographic museum concept, its founders, conveners and collectors.

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In the circle of Russian intelligentsia the awareness of necessity to study culture and lifestyle of the peoples of multinational Russian empire already appeared in the middle XIX century together with establishment of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society in Saint Petersburg.

The idea to create large ethnographic museum on the peoples of Russia matured in the depths of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. The first serious step towards its realization was the All Russian Ethnographic Exhibition of 1867 in Moscow which was organized by efforts of the Society of Devotees of Natural Science, Anthropology, and Ethnography and had broad public and scientific resonance. After its closure ethnographic collections became integral part of the Moscow Public Museum of Rumyantsev and Dashkov and since 1948 they are kept in the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

Semenov-Tyan-Shansky Pyotr Petrovich (1827—1914)

Geographer, statistician, botanist, the Vicepresident of the Russian Geographic Society, the author of the program for ethnographic study of New Guinea population of the N.N. Miklukho-Maklai expedition, the member of the Council of Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Ethnographic Museum.

"The main idea  ... of the Society founders consisted in attracting as much as possible the best forces of the Russian land to realization of objective broadly postulated by them –the study of native land and people inhabiting it and to work with them for benefit and glory of Fatherland. (P.P.Semenov –Tyan-Shansky)

Baer Karl Maksimovich (1792 - 1876)

Outstanding naturalist, academician, one of the founders of the Imperial Russian Geographic Society and the first President of its Ethnographic Department.

"Due to diffusing education which smooth development of tribes, resources for ethnographic works decrease with every day. However, there is much in this respect that could be gathered and that decrease with time and finally will completely disappear.

All the information is… treasure which price increase with time. Therefore, all that would be done for the ethnography will keep lasting reminiscence about itself". (K.M.Baer)

Stasov Vladimir Vasil’evich (1824 - 1906)

Art and musical critic, art historian, archeologist, bibliographer of the Art Department of the National Public Library, member of the Council of Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum

"...First time we had intention to create museum where all the daily life of all diverse, numerous peoples incorporated in the Russian State will be presented. It’s grandiose, unprecedented "  (V.V.Stasov)

ON THE ROLE OF THE EMPEROR NICOLAS II AND THE MEMBERS OF THE ROMANOV FAMILY IN FOUNDATION OF THE RUSSIAN MUSEUM OF ETHNOGRAPHY  
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The Emperor Nicolas II (1868 - 1918)

The Ethnographic Department of the Russian Musem     was established by the Emperor Николаем II to fulfill the will and to perpetuate the memory of his farther Alexander III by the Persona Highest Decree of 13 April 1895

Nicolas II and other members of the Royal Family were passionate collectors and became in fact ones of the first storage establishers of Ethnographic Department Николай I which collection incorporated the gifts from the Romanov’s personal collection.

Ordinance  concerning the Alexander III Russian Museum

General norms

 1. The museum is established in the memory of unforgettable patron of Art  the Emperor Alexander III having the purpose to join everything  related tо his person  and history of his reign and to give clear  idea about artistic and cultural situation of Russia.

2. Therefore, the museum is divided in three departments:
I. The department specially dedicated to the memory of the Emperor Alexander III.

II. Artistic one.
III. Ethnographic and artistic-productive departments.
3. Every department has independent significance and in case of necessity can divide in subsections except the first one which should remain forever one and entire memorial to the Emperor Alexander III

The Great Duke Georgy Mihailovich (1863 - 1919)

…was the royal administrator of the Alexander III Russian Museum. He was the most important figure in history of creation and first years of museum activity. As the first President of the Ethnographic Department Council he carried out building, maintained extensive correspondence with correspondents, formed museum collections.  He gave to the Ethnographic Department large collection of oriental festive utensils.

"Being inseparable part of the entire Alexander III Russian Museum, the Ethnographic Department should be and is itself the central ethnographic museum in Russia, which necessity is concerned by the interests of Russian science and national thought for a long time".

Founding members
On the role of famous scientists in elaboration of concepts and main directions of activity of the Peoples of Russian Empire.

The main scientific concepts and organizing principles established by founders and first museum workers in the early XX century remain and develop at all  stages of museum’s existence up today.

Lamansky Vladimir Ivanovich (1833 - 1914)

Slavist,  professor of the Saint Petersburg University, academician, the President of the Ethnographic Division of the Russian Geographical Society, founder and publisher of the journal “The Living Antiquity”, the member of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum.  

"...The museum must give comprehensive idea about different ethnic groups in Russia as varieties of humanity…represent Russia in its ethnographic specifics as complete and correct as possible..." (V.I. Lamansky)

Kondakov Nikodim Pavlovich (1844 - 1925)

Historian of Byzantine and Ancient Russian art, academician, the President of Anthropological Society at the Saint Petersburg University, the member of the Council of Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum” " The Russian ethnography within the limits of Russia...and in the boundaries of the area of tribes related to it in neighboring countries should be put as the main objective of the Ethnographic Department..." (N.P. Kondakov)

Shakhmatov Alexei Alexandrovich (1864 - 1920)

Linguist, historian of Ancient Russian literature, the President of the Department of Russian Language and Philology of the Academy of Science, the Member of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum.

"...the objective of new museum must be the ethnography of Russian Empire and Slavs...."  (A.A.Shakhmatov)

Radlov Vasily Vasilevich  (1837 - 1918)

Linguist and ethnographer, academician, the Director of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, derived from Kunstkamera, the   Member of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum.

"...The task of the Russian Museum of Ethnography is to exhibit collection of artifacts representing  creativity of particular ethnic groups, expressed in their lifestyle, amenities and aesthetic aspirations at that stages of culture when these people were still inspired by independent ideals, as well as gradual development and influence of original cultures " (V.V. Radlov)

Pypin Alexander Nikolaevich (1837 - 1918)

Scholar, researcher of Russian and foreign literature, bibliographer. Academician, the member of the Ethnographic Department Councill of the Alexander III Russian Museum 

"...the ethnographic study can and (must) encompass and explain all the aspects of folk daily life and notion and this study as much, as possible and this study shouldn’t be unfounded and general eulogy:   peoples’ life like existence of any other society has dark sides which can be explained by this or that way, which may be, not provoke one’s sympathy, to conceal these dark sides ethnography couldn’, if she wishes to remain at least party honest (A.N. Pypin)

Oldenburg Sergei Fyodorovich (1863 - 1934)

Specialist in Oriental Studies, academician, permanent secretary of the Russian Academy of Science, the member of Council of the Ethnographic Department of Alexander III Russian Museum.

"...Every museum worker should consider that he is both collection-gatherer and technical conservator, specialist in exhibition and explainer and at the same time research worker... Daily, long hours work on material makes museum worker the research specialist of quite specific type on the one hand possessing exceptional knowledge of each separate item, and on the other hand systematically accustomed to grouping and classification of huge number of objects " (S.F.Oldenburg)

Klements Dmitry Alexandrovich (1848 - 1914)

Ethnographer, archeologist, geographer, anthropologist, specialist in religious studies, journalist. One of the founders of the Minusinsky Museum well known in Russia and far beyond its borders, the first chief of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum of Ethnography (1902-1910).

"...Museum is so extensive that it will be one of the greatest in Europe..." -  D.A.Klementz wrote, soon he was to become director, ideologist and organizer of realization of concept of the first national ethnographic museum in Russia. 

"...He wasn’t formulaic observer of daily life.  He considered ethnography as the great science of human culture’s evolution, the science requiring encyclopedic complex of knowledge  ..." (Л.Я.Штернберг)

Gatherers

About first gatherers who established the base of museum collections.

Initially collections of museum were gathered in expeditions by its first workers and engaged helpers (correspondents) on the base of gathering programs. Among first exhibits the donations of the Romanovs’ family and numerous private collectionists   occupy important place.

Klements Dmitry Alexandrovich  (1848 - 1914)

Ethnographer, archeologist, geographer, anthropologist, specialist in religious studies, journalist. One of the founders of the Minusinsky Museum well known in Russia and far beyond its borders, the first chief of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum of Ethnography (1902-1910).

D.A.Klements organized systematic gathering of exhibits of the peoples of Siberian region. He involved in cooperation many correspondents− members of local administration, intelligentsia, and peasants. They comprised the main group of gatherers of Siberia and Far East Department. Their work was directed by full-time specialists of the department, followers of ideas, principles and methods of D.A. Klements collection activities.

"...Everything which peasant makes for his daily life with his instruments to satisfy his needs are the objects of ethnography and both the objects and raw material used for their making at all stages of its treatment, and instruments with which they are made should be in museum " (D.A.Klements)

Volkov Fyodor Kondratievich (1847 - 1918)

Anthropologist, ethnographer, archeologist, in 1907-1919 full-time fellow of the Ethnographic Department of the Emperor Alexander III Russian Museum. He collected more than 3600 objects..

"...Daly life peculiarities of every people are result of their collective activity. Economical aspects of this activity is the task of separate branch of knowledge, the forms which this activity takes, as well as its results in shapes of everyday objects and psychological and social phenomena are subject to research in the field of ethnography (F.K.Volkov)

Dudin Samuil Martunovich  (1863 - 1929)

Ethnographer, traveler, artist, photographer, researcher of  Oriental art, founder of the Central Asian collections of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum. His collections encompass more than 4000 artifacts and 1500 photographs.

"... The area subject to photographic fixation is almost as wide and unlimited  as the area of artist.  Moreover, photographer will have advantage of rapid work and fixation of subject which are quite inaccessible for the latter…. material provided by photographer will have all the advantages of objectivity, unbiased and precise protocol." (S. M. Dudin)

Inostrantsev Konstantin Alexandrovich  (1876 - 1941)

Researcher, specialist in oriental studies, in 1902-1908 full-time fellow of the Alexander III Ethnographic Department. He collected about 700 items on Caucasus and Crimea ethnography.

"...Study in lifestyle and spiritual peculiarities  of tribes developing under influence of quite diverse natural and historical conditions in the space embracing almost  the entire north-west of the Old Continent is the task of profound importance and interest not only for the men of science, but also for all educated " (K.A. Inostrantsev)

Layatsky Evgeny Alexandrovich (1868 - 1942)

Folklorist, ethnographer, specialist in literature studies, member of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum. He created extensive net of correspondents with which help he brought to museum about 6000 artifacts.

"...Department in particular needs cooperation of local amateurs and connoisseurs of folk lifestyle who can be the most helpful where direct acquaintance with all details of lifestyle and moral character of local population is required. My expedition had objective to make cohesion with local activists, which could become collectors of ethnographic objects for future museum..." (E.A. Lyatsky)

Makarenko Alexei Alexseevich (1860 - 1942)

Ethnographer, folklorist, correspondent and later fellow of the ethnographic Department of Alexander IIII Russian Musem (1902-1942)

 He   made important contribution to   formation of collection including Russian collection and Siberian one.

"... I have an honor to notify the Council of Museum that fulfilling commissions of the Ethnographic Department I acquired for it about 700 big and small items including “doselnue” that is old clothes and jewelry of Russian people, headdresses, wooden utensils proving close connection of the Yenisei Governorate with northern governorates of European"(A.A.Makarenko)

Miller Alexander Alexandrovich  (1875 - 1935)

Archeologist, ethnographer, the head of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander IIII Russian Museum. He gathered extensive collections (1076 objects) that became the base of museum Caucasus collection.

"...In fact the objective of research should be not instruments themselves, but society which created them in historical development  ..." (A.A.Miller)

Mogylyansky Nikolai Mikhailovich (1871 - 1933)

Ethnographer, anthropologist, fellow and later head of Ethnographic Department of Alexander III Russian Museum of Ethnography (1902 - 1918). He collected more than  3000 items on culture and daily life of Eastern Slavic peoples.

"...Ethnography is the study of peoples. Its task is to study development of intellectual and spiritual forces of humankind, which under the influence of race specifics, geographical environment and historical conditions went among various groups representing peoples of the Earth globe in specific way and was reflected in peculiarities of material and spiritual organization of their life "(N.M. Mogylyanski)

Plushkin Fyodor Mikhailovich (1837 - 1911)

Collector, gatherer of antiquities, honorable citizen of Pskov, part of his million collection (1355 objects) was bought with personal funds of Nicholas II and donated to the Ethnographic Department of the Emperor Alexander III Russian Museum.  

Rudenko  Sergei Ivanovich  (1885 - 1969)

Anthropologist, archeologist, ethnographer, correspondent (since 1906) and late the head of Ethnographic Department of the State Russian Museum (1921-1929). He collected   7700 objects on the cultures of Volga Region and Siberia.

"...Every ethnographer-collector knows well that gathering of ethnographic collections creates incomparably more difficulties than any other else. Collector-ethnographer isn’t just collector, but also purchaser and that’s why he depends entirely on demands, prejudices and even whims of those with whom he has to deal ." (S.I. Rudenko)

Shabelskaya Natalia Leonidovla  (1845 - 1904)

Moscow collector, significant part of her collection (1100 items) was purchased by the Emperor Nicolas II and donated to the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum.

"...The collection of Ms. Shabelskaya has unique objects, which is impossible to get in present times. Their absence in museum collection would have deprived it of necessary and extremely desirable completeness. One shouldn’t forget that in the case if the collection of Ms. Shabelskaya came to another scientific institution or private foundation, the Alexander III Museum could be deprived forever of possibility to become the most complete depositary of old Russian daily life objects (M.N.Mogylyanski)

Museum directors

1902-1909 – Klements Dmitry Alexandrovich  (Head of the Ethnographic Department of Russian Museum).

1910-1918 Mogylyanski Nikolai Milhailovich (Head of the Ethnographic Department of Russian Museum).

1918-1921 Miller Alexander Alexandrovich  (Head of the Ethnographic Department of Russian Museum).

1921-1929 Rudenko Sergei Ivanovich  (Head of the Ethnographic Department of Russian Museum)

1930-1937 Talanov N.G.

1937 - 1953 Milshtein E.A.

1941 – Interim director Bykovskaya A.F.

1941-1945 interim director Morozova A.S.

1968-1977 Sergeev D.A.

1977-1987 Baranova I.I.

1987-1999 Dubov I.V.

1999 – 2019 Grusman V.M.

2019 - present time Kupina Y.A.

Architecture

On architectural project of V.F.Svin’yn, construction, particularities and further fate of museum building 
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The Russian Museum of Ethnography is situated in the building constructed in Russian Neo-Classical style in the early XX century. It’s one of few buildings in Saint Petersburg constructed specially for museum. Construction started in 1903 and lasted until 1919, when interior furnishing of facilities was completed and museum equipment was installed.

Svin’yn Vasily Fyodorovich (1865 - 1939)

The architect of Imperial court, author of project and organizer of construction of building of the Russian Museum of Ethnography (former Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum of Ethnography)

In 1897 after winning anonymous contest architect V.F.Svin’yn started to elaborate the project of special building for two departments of the Russian Museum: Ethnographic and Memorial. The grandiose project of architect wasn’t completely realized; premises for storages, laboratories, offices and hall to show collections of the Memorial Department were never built.

Exhibition halls
On maximal adaptation of museum halls for display of ethnographic exhibits  - from lay-out to special furniture
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Inside the museum building has clear symmetrical lay-out with the gala Marble Hall and the solemn Entrance Hall in its center. Twelve halls joined by the central gallery are located respectively on each of two floors of the left and right parts of building.

According to idea and realization the architecture and interior decoration of building perfectly corresponded to its purpose – display of ethnographic collection.  The walls of exhibition halls were painted in the calm hues without patterns, images and decorative moldings.

Simultaneously with construction of the building special hermetic furniture was commissioned in Germany and disinfection room was built which serve museum up to present times.  

Marble Hall

About the Marble Hall – architectural dominante of building in the memory of the Emperor Alexander III.

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The Marble Hall was conceived as memorial one in honor of the Emperor Alexander III. The hall is built in traditions of Greek and Roman peristyle (interior courtyard surrounded by roofed colonnade) with plafond made of crystal plates on which double-headed eagles and oak leaves are depicted.

The peculiarity of this monumental building with total area of 935 square meters is exclusive use of national pink marble with its high decorative qualities for embellishment.  

The marble was mined in quarries of the former Olonets Governorate in the north of Russia.

28 columns in the gallery, each one weighing 24 tons are made of monolith marble blocks; walls, floor, cornices and steps are inlaid with plates of the same stone, skillfully selected  according to their design.  

The monument to the Emperor Alexander III

Unrealized project of erecting monument to the Emperor Alexander III in the center of Marble Hall. _______

According to the project the bronze statue of the Alexander III by the sculptor M. Ya. Kharlamov was supposed to be erected in the center of hall and bronze high relief with life scenes of the peoples of Russia was to be placed on three sides under the gallery.

The First World War and political events of 1917 impeded realization of these projects.  The ready monument to Alexander III wasn’t erected, the high relief remained unfinished and survived not in bronze but in gypsym tinted in bronze hue. The Marble Hall continues to be one of the most beautiful architectural constructions of Saint Petersburg and is the main exhibition hall of the Russian Museum of Ethnography.

High Relief

About the high relief frieze along the perimeter of the Marble Hall with images of representatives of various peoples of the Russian Empire.

The Marble Hall is framed by high relief frieze of the sculptors V. S. Bogaturev and M.D. Kharlamov made in 1902-1907. It presents a sort of annals of the peoples of Russia and depicts representatives of various ethnic groups. The material for frieze was specially selected along the entire country; the scientific consultant was D.A. Klements. Perfectly made high relief represents in realistic way characteristic types of multinational Russia. It is organically related to the project and architecture of the Memorial Hall and museum in a whole. 


Dates and events
Annals 

Main data of the centenary history of the Russian Museum of Ethnography __________

1895, April — Establishment of the Alexander III Russia Museum

1902, January —  Organization of the Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum.

1923,  June  —  Ethnographic Department of the State Russia Museum is opened for the public.

1934, March — Reorganization of the Ethnographic Department of the State Russian Museum into independent State Museum of Ethnography.

1948, June — Opening of the State Ethnographic Museum for the public after the damage caused by the Great Patriotic War.

1948, August — Unification of collections of the former Museum of the Peoples of the USSR in Moscow with the collection of the State Museum of Ethnography in Leningrad.

1954 — Finalization of repair and reconstruction works after  damages caused to museum by the Great Patriotic War.

1977 — Donation to the State Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR the status of research-scientific institution of the III category.

1979 — Inclusion of the State Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of USSR in the register of the All the Soviet Scientific-Methodic Center of Ethnographic Museum Studies with simultaneous establishment of specialized department.

1986 — Donation to the State Museum of Ethnography of the USSR the status of scientific research institution of the first category.

1991 December  — Inclusion of the State Museum of Ethnography in the State Register of especially valuable objects of cultural patrimony of the Russian Federation.

History of museum’s  name


Reflection  of various periods of museum’s history in its name.

1902-1918 — Ethnographic Department of the Alexander III Russian Museum 1918-1934 — Ethnographic Department of the State Russian Museum

1934-1948 — The State Museum of Ethnography (SME)
The name was given after the separation from the Russian Museum of Ethnography and donation of the status of independent institution.

1948-1992 — The State Museum of Ethnography of the peoples of the USSR The name was given after handling of ethnographic collections of the former Museum of the Peoples of the USSR in Moscow in the storages of the State Ethnographic Museum.

1992 - to present times  — The Russian Museum of Ethnography (RME)
New name was given due to new state position of Russia.

Flood
 

On damage caused to museum by devastating flood of 1924.

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The flood of 1925 was dramatic event for museum. Basements, where collections were stored were inundated; around 100,000 exhibits got under the water. In  consequence tens of thousands of them were damaged and some lost. Many exhibits had their inventory numbers washed away, that required their scrupulous and lengthy identification.    

Not only museum personal but also many volunteers were engaged in the saving of exhibits, taking them from water and drying. Simultaneously restoration works with participation of the best city specialists started.

In 20 days after the flood the Ethnographic department of the State Russian Museum was reopened for visitors, however for many years museum personal continued to work on liquidation of the consequences of disaster. 

The Great Patriotic War


On  death of half of personnel, significant damage of building and loss of tens of thousands of exhibits during war.

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Losses
The Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 caused museum irreparable   damage. Thirty three museum workers – half of the entire museum staff died of famine in blockaded Leningrad and fighting in fronts. In the beginning of war only one tenth of collection could be evacuated in home front, the main part remained in the besieged city.

In 1941 in consequence of 4 bomb attacks the museum building was seriously destroyed; part of load-bearing constructions and walls fell, the Entrance Hall and the splendid Marble were damaged. Due to direct fall of bomb in storage tens of thousands ethnographic objects and negatives were lost.

Restoration
The small forces of remaining museum workers cleaned debris which helped to save 15 000 items. In 1942 conservation started and immediately after the war the restoration of museum building began which continued until 1957.

The restoration of the Marble Hall required truly jewelry art for recreating of marble coverage of its floor and walls, renewing crystal ceiling and repairing wall high relief on the base of remaining fragments and photographs was especially difficult.

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