Museum history

Museum history

Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum — history highlights

The museum’s history began in 1837, when the first museum collections started to get formed.

From a “study” to the town public museum

At the end of 1836, emperor Nikolay I made a number of orders to the minister of home affairs Dmitry Bludov about organising permanent exhibitions in all the principal towns of the Russian Empire, representing the examples of the local industries and handicrafts.

As envisioned by the establishers, such exhibitions-museums were to encourage the competition amid the regions and to introduce the peculiarities of this or that province to the members of the tzar family travelling around the country.

An “Exhibition of the province creations” was organised in Arkhangelsk in 1837. Initially it consisted of 94 objects of natural, historical and ethnographic character. The collections of the exhibition were constantly replenished and stored in a separate room of the Welfare board, later — in 1840 — they were transferred to the civil governor’s house. These collections were presented to the public for the first time in 1844 on a temporary exhibition, organised on the occasion of Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov visit to Arkhangelsk.

The exhibition of the Arkhangelsk province took part at the agricultural creations exhibition in Saint Petersburg arranged by the Imperial liberal economic society in 1850.

The collections of the ”Exhibition of the Arkhangelsk province creations” were significantly replenished and renewed after the temporary display organised on the occasion of Emperor Alexander II visit to Arkhangelsk in 1858. The exhibition stopped being subordinate to the government of the province and passed under the control of the Arkhangelsk public library. Three years after, the exhibition was decided to be reassigned to the Statistic committee and renamed to the Museum of the Statistic committee. This decision was of great significance to the museum as thus it got scientific management and 200-rouble annual money allowance for the first time.

The collections comprised 804 objects by 1863 and the museum was opened for the public. In 1865, the museum received collections from the Board of public property.

The Museum of the Statistic committee was transformed to the town public museum in December 1897. It was an important stage in museum’s history as with this status the organisation obtained the permanent premises in the town hall and extra 200-rouble funding.

During many decades, the museum collections were being replenished by the governors of the province, merchants and peasants, politicians and public persons, scientists, researches, historians and local lore specialists.

Regional museum of the Soviet North

After the Soviet regime was established in the North, in 1920, the Arkhangelsk town public museum got the status of the Northern regional one and united the Eparchial archives of the Arkhangelsk church-archaeological committee, Fishing industry museum of the Far North and the museum of the Russian North research society in Arkhangelsk.

In 1927, the regional museum was expanded by means of the Revolution museum that had been collecting and studying materials on the history of the revolutionary movement in the North. The enlarged museum was named the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum.

During those times of dramatic changes, the museum was headed by a former school teacher, archaeologist and ethnographer Konstantin Reva (1917–1927), O. Valyushis (1929–1930) having initiated the organization of the Revolution museum with a branch on Mudyug island and Vyacheslav Tonkov (1930–1936) who studied the history of Arkhangelsk and Nenets folklore.

Wartime museum

The museum went on working during the Great Patriotic War — the collections were being replenished (with the objects of the military origin included), the museum workers continued their educational activities at the museum itself and in the military hospitals of Arkhangelsk. A part of the museum staff was engaged into special works in the near-front zone on Kola peninsula in 1941. Three museum employees did not return from the war: the museum artists Vladimir Yachnik and Nikolay Uzky and the chief museum keeper Petr Vasiliev who died of wounds at a hospital in Yaroslavl.

The museum building suffered from the German air attacks twice in 1942. The same year, the main museum collections were evacuated for safety reasons to Solvychegodsk and returned back successfully in 1944.

A new life stage

Systematic museum expeditions to the districts of the vast Arkhangelsk region started in 1950–1960s. As a result of this work, several museum collections were estimably enriched or re-formed: the collections of prehistoric and medieval archaeology, national costumes, handicraft industries, household items and tools of trade, technique artefacts and natural history collections.

It was in 1960–1961 when the first town expedition was organised in order to collect materials about sawmill plants development in Arkhangelsk. The museum holdings were replenished with the interesting and diverse materials of the town culture and household in 1970–1980s.

Traditionally, the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum has been the methodical centre for all the other museums in the Arkhangelsk region, rendering them assistance in organising their work and arranging new expositions. The museums that were organised and started functioning as branches of the regional lore museum are: the State Museum-reserve “Solovky”, the Severodvinsk town museum, museums in Kotlas and Krasnoborks. Based on the collection transferred from the regional lore museum, the Arkhangelsk Museum of Fine Arts was formed as well in 1960.

Today, the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum has three branches in the region: Mezen and Pinega Local Lore museums and Literature-Memorial Museum of Fyodor Abramov in Verkola.

Two broad-based museum expositions were created in the 2nd half of the 20th century. The most significant one of the two was opened in 1976 in the new museum premises on 2 Lenin Square where it continued functioning up to 1990. The Arkhangelsk Merchant Yards — the oldest stone building in Arkhangelsk, federally significant historical and architectural monument, was assigned to the museum in 1981. The first serious exhibition — the one devoted to the 400th anniversary of Arkhangelsk — was opened here in 1984. Alongside with organising the exhibition work, the museum specialists were working on the project of the Merchant Yards museumfication. The restorations works started in 1996 after their project had been approved in 1986. The new period of the museum development started in 2009–2014 when the main expositions and exhibitions were positioned at the restored merchant chambers of the Russian Merchant Yard of the 17th century and the grand halls of the 18th century.

Another federally significant object of historical and cultural heritage that was assigned to the museum in 2007 is the fortification monument of the early 18th century “Arkhangelsk Novodvinskaya Fortress” — the first seaside stone bastion fortress in Russia. Today, emergency prevention activities, archaeological and restoration works are being carried out there. During summertime, a military-historical tourist route is available on the territory of the fortress.

Great history and impressive today

The museum has rich and diverse scientific research and exhibition life with new exhibition spaces being created and scientific conferences and seminars organised. Since 1850, the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum has been taking part in numerous Russian and international exhibitions: in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, Bergen and Berlin, London and Paris. The museum has been awarded with special prizes for participating in them numerous times.

Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum celebrated its 180th birthday in 2017 as the biggest museum-cultural and tourist centre of the region. In spring 2017, the Merchant Yards being the traditional centre of the Northern hospitality became one of the venues for the ceremonial events of the IV International Arctic Forum “Arctic — territory of dialogue”.

Today, the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum is an outstanding scientific and educational institution with the extensive natural history and culture exposition and a modern exhibition and methodical centre possessing its own archives, library and a restoration workshop.

The museum holdings comprise about 300 thousand objects — this is almost a half of the whole museum collection of the Arkhangelsk region. Among the museum pieces, there are the internationally significant rarities: the Gospel by Vasily Tyapinsky of 1570, belongings of Willem Barents expedition members of 1598, personal possessions of Peter I, tzarevna Sofia, metropolitan Philaret, patriarch Nikon, Mikhail Lomonosov, John of Kronshtadt and others. The museum possesses numerous objects of high artistic value: Kholmogory bone carved goods, Old Russian needlework, “Berlin” carriage of the 18th century used to transport the Brunswick family, a trophy English tank “Mark V” dating back to 1918, a tram carriage of 1957.

The 550 million years old stone plate with the Vendian fauna imprints is of special importance, alongside with the collections of minerals and documents, photos and numismatic collections.

Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum takes an active part in international museum events and exhibitions exchanges with museums in Russia and abroad, it keeps strong connections to the neighbouring regions and has wide international contacts. As a result of the tight relations with the museums from Scandinavian countries in general and Norway in particular, the Museum network of the Barents region was formed. Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum was one of the organisers and the main venue for the IX Russian-Norwegian Culture Forum that took place in 2018.

The museum successfully combines traditional forms of museum work with the use of modern multimedia technologies as well as interactive museum spaces. Meetings of the museum directors from all over the Arkhangelsk region are annually held on the basis of the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum. The first Forum for non-state museums of the region “Open museum” was organised in the Merchant Yards on the International museum day — 18 May — in 2018.

The educational retraining programme “Museum studies” is available for the museum specialists on an annual basis.

Today, the mission of the museum is to become the leading high-tech and image-building museum centre while preserving the historical model of a “local museum”, to mobilize its potential resources for solving strategic objectives of the Arkhangelsk region development, its promotion as the historical centre of Pomorland and the Russian gates to the Arctic.