State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, Russia

The State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg is one of the largest historical museums in Russia, which presents the three hundred year history, culture and life of the northern capital of Russia.

The headquarters of the museum are located in the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was established in 1938 as the Museum of History and Development of Leningrad. It is a successor of the City Museum and the Museum of Old St. Petersburg. During the second world war on the eastern front the content were moved to Sarapul. The first full historical exhibitions began in 1957, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Leningrad. The museum contained over 1 million objects in 2002, including the collection of architects documents, photos and plans of Saint Petersburg of the 18th–20th centuries.

State Museum of the History of St Petersburg is the successor of the museums, founded in the early 20th century for the purpose of preservation of the buildings, monuments and sites of historical significance in St Petersburg.

The Museum of Old Petersburg was initiated in 1907 by the group for renowned connoisseurs of art, artists, architects and collectors, and occupied the house of Count Suzor. Alexander Benois became the first director of the Museum, later being succeeded by Peter Veiner. The founding collections consisted of unique documents, architectural designs, photographs, objects of fine art, books, artefacts, in other words – everything, that somehow related to the life of St Petersburg. In 1910, the first museum exhibition was opened to the public.

In 1918, the Museum of the City, dedicated to the phenomenon of urban culture in general, was founded. One of the missions of the museum, along with the preservation of cultural heritage, was the development of new concepts of urban planning. The Museum of the Old Petersburg became one of the departments of the Museum of the City.

The Museum occupied three buildings: the Anichkov Palace, the Сountess Karlova Mansion (46 Fontanka Embankment) and the Serebryannikov Mansion (35 Fontanka Embankment). In 1918–1928, the Museum was headed by Lev Ilyin, the main architect and city planner of Leningrad. Owing to his efforts, the Museum of the City became one of the largest research facilities of Petrograd-Leningrad of the 1920s.

The end of the 1920s, when totalitarian rule had been established in Russia, was complicated period in the history of the Museum. Departments and exhibitions were closed, items were confiscated, specialists were dismissed, and finally the museum was converted into the display, dedicated to the city economy. In 1938, the Museum of the History and Development of Leningrad was started on the basis of the former Museum of the City and occupied the Rumyantsev Mansion. In 1954 the Museum changed its name to the Museum of the History of Leningrad, and acquired a number of buildings of Peter and Paul Fortress, including Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Grand Ducal Burial Chapel, the Boathouse, the Trubetskoy and Zotov Bastions.

The intensification of ideological pressure that began in the country in the late 1920s also affected the life of the City Museum. Many exhibits were recognized as non-core and subject to seizure, some employees were dismissed, and the director of the museum, L. A. Ilyin, was removed from office in 1928. Then the exhibition in the Karlova mansion was closed, in 1930 the department of the Museum of Old Petersburg was abolished, the exhibition in the Serebryanikovs house was liquidated. In 1931, the City Museum was renamed the Museum of the Socialist Reconstruction of the City, two years later it became known as the Museum-Exhibition of Construction and Urban Economics, and a permanent exhibition of building materials, structures and architectural projects opened in the Anichkov Palace. In 1935, the museum building was transferred to the All-Union Pioneer Organization to house the Palace of Pioneers,School of technical drawing of Baron Stieglitz in the Salt City.

In 1938, the museum was renamed again, it became known as the “Museum of the History and Development of Leningrad”, the exhibits are located in the mansion of Rumyantsev on emb. Red Fleet, 44, work began on the preparation of a new exhibition, which opened only in 1949. The museum changed its name two more times: in 1951 it became the Museum of Architecture of Leningrad, from 1953 – the State Museum of the History of Leningrad.

In 1954-1987, the museum was headed by L. N. Belova (1924-1993). In 1954, a number of objects of the Peter and Paul Fortress were transferred to the museum, most of the funds were located here. The old ones were significantly expanded and new funds were formed, now more than 1.3 million exhibits are stored in them (in the late 1930s, the funds totaled 121,356 storage units).

The branches of the museum were St. Isaac’s Cathedral (1963), Shlisselburg Fortress Oreshek (1965), Smolny Cathedral (1974), Panteleimon Church (1974). In 1971, the opening of the exhibition “Architecture of St. Petersburg XVIII – early XX centuries” in the Engineering HousePeter and Paul Fortress, in 1975, in the Commandant’s House, the exhibition “History of St. Petersburg-Petrograd. 1703-1917 “. In 1976-1986, local history museums in Pushkin, Lomonosov and Zelenogorsk became branches. In 1973 Ioannovsky Ravelin opened memorial exhibition “The Museum of Gas Dynamics Laboratory. On the history of Soviet rocket science ”(since 1999 – Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology named after V.P. Glushko ). In 1975, the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad on Sq. Victory – for participating in the creation of this monument, L. N. Belova was awarded the State Prize of the RSFSR. Opening of the branch “ A.-Blok Museum-Apartment ”.

In 1980, the centenary of the poet’s birth, was a major event in the life of the city and country. In 1983, the museum was given the exhibition “V. I. Lenin and the newspaper “Pravda” ”(now the Museum of the Press ). The branches also became the memorial museum of S. M. Kirov (since 1993), the house-museum of the artist M. V. Matyushin – the Museum of St. Petersburg Avant-Garde (the exposition was opened in 2006).

When the city of Leningrad had recovered its historical name in 1991, the Museum was renamed into State Museum of the History of St Petersburg. Today Peter and Paul Fortress is one of the seven branches of State Museum of the History of St Petersburg. The defensive installations and old buildings are being carefully restored. The casemates of the curtain walls and bastions house unique collections, which contain objects fr om daily life, clothing, porcelain, furniture, architectural designs, graphic art, and paintings. The Museum hosts a variety of events all year long, including temporary exhibitions, scientific conferences, lecture series, festivals. It has become one of the major city venues, wh ere specialists can meet to share their ideas about the development of the city architecture, restoration and preservation of St Petersburg historical sites.

State Museum of the History of St Petersburg includes seven branches: Peter and Paul Fortress, Shlisselburg Fortress Oreshek, Rumyantsev Mansion, Alexander Blok Museum, Sergey Kirov Museum, St Petersburg Avant-garde Museum (Mikhail Matyushin’s House), Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, Museum of Printing.

The collection of the museum numbers some 1,5 million items – material testimonies of the history of St. Petersburg.

History of St Petersburg – Petrograd. 1703 – 1918
Permanent display in the Commandant’s House of Peter and Paul Fortress consists of two sections. The first section explores the ancient history of the Neva banks and the history of St Petersburg of the early eighteenth – early nineteenth century. On display are archaeological finds, maps and layouts, paintings, pieces of graphic and applied art, created under Peter the Great and during the reign of his heirs.

The second section of the exhibition provides insight into daily life of St. Petersburg in the nineteenth – early twentieth centuries. Every exhibition room is devoted to a special subject: commerce and banking business, life in a rental apartment house and transport, city fashion and multinational cuisine, Art Nouveau Style designer’s products, amenities and cinema. What food did residents of St. Petersburg eat, what clothes did they wear, how did they spend money and what did they buy – these are some of the questions which can be answered during the visit to the Commandant’s House.

History of Peter and Paul Fortress
Permanent display in the Neva Curtain Wall explores the history of Peter and Paul Fortress. More than 500 items from the museum collection, including archeological finds, engravings, photographs, construction equipment, models of the fortification structures, tell the story of the construction and development of the unique historical monument. Architectural designs, Russian and Swedish layouts and maps of the early nineteenth century demonstrate strategic importance of the location of the fortress. The exhibition is accompanied with multimedia programs.

Porcelain and glassware of the XVIII-XXI centuries
Exhibition from the collection of ceramics and glassware of the State Museum of History of St Petersburg is about 5000 objects of porcelain and glassware of Russian and West European production.

The collection of ceramics and glassware of the State Museum of the History of St Petersburg keeps 12 385 objects: decorative vases, tableware, small plastic art and glass packaging (glass bottles for dairy products, brand wine and beer bottles, pharmaceutical utensils, perfume bottles), etc.

Furniture of the XVIII – early XX century
In 2013 a permanent exhibition “Collection of furniture of the XVIII – early XX century” was opened for visitors. The collection is taken from the decorative and applied arts fund of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg.

The decorative and applied arts fund collection of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg has about 6000 items: furniture (about 4000 items), clocks and illumination devices of the XVIII – XX centuries. Only a small part of this vast collection is displayed at the exhibitions of the museum. The purpose of opening a permanent exhibition “Collection of furniture of the XVIII – early XX century” is to familiarize the public with the best works of furniture making from the museum collection.

The exhibition displays more than 500 pieces of furniture: living room sets, dining room sets, sofas, armchairs, tables, chairs, banquettes, chests of drawers, wardrobes, cupboards, incense burners, fireplace screens, etc. Here a visitor can see furniture manufactured in different countries of Western Europe but the biggest part of the collection is presented by Russian “household” furniture. Among the earliest exhibit items – a chair of Peter the Great’s epoch, Russian trunk and chests of the XVIII century and French chests of drawers of the second half of XVIII century. There are a lot of samples of furniture of well-known St. Petersburg workshops: German Byuhtger, Sergey Zimin, Heinrih Gambs, Fedor Meltzer, as well as items created from sketches by famous architects: Leo von Klenze, Luigi Rusca, Vasily Stasov. Interesting is the collection of bent “Viennese” furniture of companies “Thonet Brothers,” “Jacob and Josrf Kohn” and ” Wojciechow”.

The exhibited collection of furniture of different styles and different eras will give an idea of how the interiors of St. Petersburg sitting-rooms, studies and dining-rooms looked like for more than two centuries.

The museum carries out large works on preservation, conservation and restoration of monuments of cultural and historical significance. Our curators are engaged in various exhibition and publishing projects.

Education is one of the largest fields of the museum’s activity. Children’s Centre of State Museum of the History of St Petersburg realizes over 20 programmes for children, pupils, students and families.

The museum has developed a long-lasting programme of development, which includes:

Accessibility of the museum collection (creation of open storage archives, organization of exhibitions, publishing of catalogues);
Rational use of the territory of Peter and Paul Fortress with the aim of exhibition space expansion;
Collaboration with Russian and foreign museums, associations and committees;
Creation of modern information areas involving IT-technologies, development of services for the visitors (museum shops, cafes, etc.)