Short history of the main places worth seeing in the city: Russian museum and the Hermitage
State Russian museum was established in St. Petersburg in 1895, by Royal decree (of tsar Nikolay II); the ceremonial opening took place in 1898. It was the very first in Russia State museum of Russian fine arts. The original collection included objects and works of art handed from other museums and depositaries (80 paintings – from the Hermitage, 120 – from Imperial Academy of Arts, and 200 – from tsar’s palaces). The collection was located in Mikhailovsky Palace. This unique exposition was replenished with pieces from private collections, and with exhibits bought at auctions. By 1914 the area of Mikhailovsky Palace was not spacious enough to house the exposition, and part of the collections were moved into another building in Griboedov canal embankment – the Benois Wing, originally designed as an exhibition pavilion for the Academy of Arts (architects L.N. Benois and I.S. Ovsyannikov). Today, on the ground floor of the Benois Wing – works of Soviet art, and on the first floor – paintings of the latter half of the 19th century and the early of the 20th century.
In 1917 the exposition was substantially replenished due to cultural values’ nationalization. During the Great Patriotic War (the World War II) nearly all the collections were sent to Perm (the Urals), and the remaining objects were kept in the storages of the lower floors and basements of Mikhailovsky Palace. Mikhailovsky Palace and Benois Wing were seriously damaged by artillery bombardment. After the restoration works Russian museum again opened its doors on the 9th of May, 1946.
Today, the collection is accommodated in the outstanding monuments of the 18–19th centuries architecture: Mikhailovsky, Stroganov, Marble Palaces, and Mikhailovsky Castle. Mikhailovsky garden, Summer garden and Peter I’s Summer Palace as well as Cabin of Peter the Great are also part of the museum complex. The State Russian museum is a large authoritative research, restoration, preservation, and educational centre. It takes part in international auctions buying valuable pieces of art. The museum collections are constantly growing, they include: the Old Russian art, applied arts and crafts, painting of the 18–20th centuries, sculpture, drawings, watercolors, engravings, folk art, decorative and applied art, numismatics, contemporary paintings and photos. The most valuable collections are art objects of the Old Russia – more than 18 000 exhibits. Among them: photocopies of medieval wall paintings, Old Russian broidery, and icons. There is also unique, and a big one, collection of paintings by such artists as Levitsky, Rokotov, Brullov, Aivazovsky and many other outstanding Russian painters. In 1992, the President of the Russian Federation signed up a decree acknowledging the Russian museum as a special object of national cultural heritage.
Address: 4, Inshenernaya street
The State Hermitage is one of the largest world museums, and the most famous cultural-historical museum in Russia. The Hermitage was founded in 1764, when Empress Catherine the Great bought 225 paintings from Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, and they were exhibited in the Winter Palace. Later, Catherine the Great ordered to build the Small Hermitage and the Great Hermitage – to house new exhibits, as the collections were growing every year. For the public the Hermitage opened its doors only in 1852. After Revolution of 1917 the Hermitage and the Winter Palace were officially announced to be the State museums. Today the Hermitage contains about 3 million exhibits: archeological artefacts, primitive culture objects, jewelry, art objects of glass, porcelain, Delft ware and precious stones; collections of painting, drawings, sculpture and applied arts from all over the world. There are special treasure galleries in the Hermitage: Diamond and Gold. In the Diamond room jewelry collection is presented: the exhibits are dated from the Bronze Age till the 20th century. The basis of this collection is jewelry of Romanov family. Gold room contains jewelry items, which were found in old tombs of the Black Sea coast, in the Caucasus and Eastern Siberia; the Scythian gold of the 7–6th centuries B.C., Old Greek jewelry and diplomatic presents from India, China, Byzantium, Turkey. The Hermitage expositions are located in 7 historical buildings: the Winter Palace, East Wing and the Arch of the General Staff Building, the Great (Old) Hermitage, the Small Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre and Menshikov Palace.
In 1991 in a decree by the President of the Russian Federation the State Hermitage Museum was included into the list of national heritage objects. In honour of the State Hermitage, 11 April 1997, a minor planet registered in the International Catalogue of Minor Planets under No. 4758 was named Hermitage.
Address: 2, Palace square (Dvortsovaya ploschad’)
Out-of-ordinary museums of St. Petersburg
Erarta Museum is a unique art-project: fine arts museum, contemporary art gallery, studio, art shop and cultural centre. It is the largest private museum of Russian modern arts. The museum is located in Vasilyevsky Island in one of St. Petersburg historical buildings, its area is 10 000 square meters. The museum collection includes contemporary painters’ works (latter half of the 20th century and the early 21st century), and consists of about 2300 works by more than 250 artists. Erarta Museum constantly replenishes the collection due to working relationship with painters from different regions of our country, representing various generations and trends. The most part of the collection is paintings; graphics, sculpture, objects, installations and other forms of art are also presented here. Erarta Museum often holds art-projects contests. Many designers and artists from St. Petersburg take part in them. In this way the museum is looking for young talented painters, whose works are exhibited later here. The main criteria for selection are: freedom from political or commercial dictate, originality and mastership. The important mission of Erarta Museum is not only to support original contemporary art but also to popularize it, to make it closer to people. At Erarta art shops you can find paintings available for sale, and also a variety of original art objects from Erarta studio, handicrafts, souvenirs, gifts, books, fashion accessories and decorative items for the interior. As a cultural centre Erarta Museum hosts concerts, plays, film shows and other events.
Address: 2, 29th line of Vasilyevsky Island
Museum complex "The Universe of Water" was opened for the 300th anniversary celebration of St. Petersburg. The museum exhibitions are placed in the Water Tower (built in 1861 by architects E. Shubersky and I. Merts) and the building of former underground clean water reservoir of the Main Water Works. For elderly and disabled people the tower is equipped with lift. Today the museum complex consists of 3 parts: “The Water World of St. Petersburg”, “The Underground of Petersburg”, “The Universe of Water”. The first exhibition is inside the building of the Water Tower. Such museum pieces as wooden pipes, vintage brass and ceramic bathroom equipment, old drawings and photos (of the 19th century) are presented here. Also you can learn the history of water supply in St. Petersburg and the story about city utilities functioning during the Siege, that allowed avoid epidemies in Leningrad. The second part (multimedia exhibition in the left extension of the Water Tower) is a trip under the ground. You can witness the water way from water-retaining constructions on the Neva River to St. Petersburg apartments, and back – to water treatment plant. The third part (also multimedia exposition, located in the former clean water reservoir), “The Universe of Water”, gives the full picture of water – its chemical composition, informational memory, its meaning for the mankind. Multimedia technologies and various effects are combined here with the exhibits that the visitors can freely touch.
The main mission of this complex is to preserve the Water Tower in undamaged condition as a unique construction of the 19th century, and to popularize the idea of environmental friendliness and attitude of care towards water resources.
Address: 56, Shpalernaya street