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Russia’s oldest museum Kunstkammer turns 305

Russia’s oldest museum Kunstkammer turns 305

Today, Russia’s oldest museum, the Kunstkammer (or, the Chamber of Curiosities) is celebrating its 305th anniversary.


This day 305 years ago, the Kunstkammer (Chamber of Curiosities), Russia’s oldest museum, was founded. On its birthday, the museum makes presents to visitors and takes no entrance fee. Also, a new exhibition opens in the Kunstkammer.

The collections of the Kunstkammer founded by Peter the Great formed the basis for the Zoological, Botanic, Mineralogy, Ethnographic and Asian museums, which were established later. A large part of the collection was moved to the Hermitage.

Now, three centuries after the museum opened, the very first collection that gave start to the Kunstkammer remains the most popular with visitors. It is the collection Peter the First bought for 30 thousand gold guilders from a Dutch pathologist who invented a method to preserve organs, an important breakthrough for the 18th century science.

In 1718, Peter the First ordered local authorities in Russia to by anatomic curiosities from residents. The prices were fantastic, animals with pathologies, like a calf with two heads, cost 5 rubles, and birds 3 rubles, while a clerk’s monthly salary was just 2 rubles at that time.

The building that the Kunstkammer occupies was built for the museum and the Academy of Science to the design by the architect Mattarnovi. It took 16 years to complete the construction. The building had all the necessary conditions for researchers, including an observatory, a physics lab, a library and an anatomy board. Mikhail Lomonosov, the founding father of the Russian academic science, worked here. 

Now, the Kunstammer is working on digitalization of its collection. Next year, the museum is to get new state of the art equipment to study its exhibits.

The new technologies will help receive new information that otherwise cannot be deducted by traditional methods, Andrey Golovnev, Director of the museum, says.

The museum is looking forward for the new storage and research center to be built in Ozerki. The new storage facilities are to be opened in 2023. At present, only 0.5% of the unique items kept in the Kunstkammer are on display.

Photo: St. Petersburg TV channel