Kunstkammer

A collection of museums and rarities

A distinct blue and white building, the Kunstkammer holds Russia’s first museum. Peter the Great founded this museum, known as the Cabinet of Curiosities in 1714 and had his entire collection from foreign travels moved into one systemic “encyclopaedia museum”. These so-called cabinets housed things that science could not yet explain, such as anatomical deformities, and so was a place of wonder for academics of the time.

The Kunstkammer was built between 1718 and 1734 and initially opened unfinished with an observatory, museum, library, laboratory and an anatomical theatre. Russia’s first planetarium, 3.1m in diameter and designed in 1664, is inside and can be visited in small group excursions. A distinctly German name, the Kunstkammer existed throughout Western Europe as well and served the same purpose; a progenitor of the modern museum.

The Kunstkammer can be broken down into three museums. The central tower is a small museum dedicated to Mikhail Lomonosov who happened to be Russia’s first scientist on the world stage, while Peter’s collections of physical abnormalities form another museum. These grisly samples of humans and other creatures represent an early study of anatomy. Another section contains the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography featuring diverse exhibits of art from places all around the world where Russian explorers have reached. Included are American Indian outfits, mammoth ivory fashioned into Siberian pipes, Congo ritual masks and Javanese shadow puppets. Tour to st Petersburg