Libmonster ID: CN-918
Author(s) of the publication: Yaroslav RENKAS

by Yaroslav RENKAS, Cand. Sc. (Hist.)

The RAS Department of Historical and Philological Sciences has brought out a fundamental study (Nauka Publishers, Moscow, 2007) devoted to the sufficiently broad subject "Russia's History in the Expositions and Collections of Museums of the Russian Academy of Sciences" in the period from the early 18th century to our days.

The group of authors including prominent scholars, such as academicians Tatyana Alexeyeva, Vladimir Myasnikov, Dmitry Rundkvist, RAS corresponding members Rauf Munchayev and Alexei Rozanov, among others, did an excellent job of their far from easy task. They have managed to present an exhaustive picture in one volume, which is certainly a fundamental study, of the invaluable wealth and thematic variety of the collections of rarities stored at the nine research and scientific-and-educational institutions kept on the RAS balance*. They are engaged in the acquisition, storage, publication and popularization of the monuments of natural history, material and spiritual culture, documents of the great people's life and work.

* The RAS system includes 64 operating museums: 44 natural science and humanitarian ones, 20 memorial museums devoted to outstanding scholars of Russia. - Ed.

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The study opens up with the chapter devoted to the RAS Paleontological Museum named after Yu.A. Orlov (Moscow). Prehistoric vertebrates who roamed Earth 250 - 40 million years ago have been put on display there. The museum's collection exceeds 1 mln exhibits, although only several thousand of them have been put on view in the five halls of the building erected in the early 1990s. The first hall is devoted to the history of paleontology; the second one-to the early Paleozoic era; the third one- to the late Paleozoic era with its vertebrates; the fourth-to the Mesozoic era with the community of wildlife that inhabited Earth then, including various dinosaur and rhinoceros species; the fifth one-to the Cenozoic era with its fauna. The volume is supplied with the photographs of skeletons of the most exotic animals, in particular, of mammoths that roamed Siberia some 40,000 years ago* and of giant rhinoceroses Indricoteria, the largest ground mammals of them all who had ever inhabited Earth. Those animals thrived in the late Eocenic and early Miocenic eras, i.e. approximately 35 - 20 mln years ago. They had very long legs and necks and were over five meters high and about eight meters long. The giant animals weighed about 15 tons.

The unique collection of skeletons and skulls of prehistoric animals that thrived on Earth over 250 million years ago occupies the pride of place: tarbosaurs, labyrinthodones-dvinosaurs, cotlassias, cynodones, pareiasaurs, gorgonops inostrancevia among others.

The readers' interest will be also certainly attracted by the section dealing with the materials of the RAS State Geological Museum named after V.I. Vernadsky (Earth History Museum). It dates back to the period of foundation of Moscow University established by the Royal Order in 1755. In the same year the university received the Mineral Collection, presented as a gift to it by the sons of Akinfy Demidov, the owner of first metal works in the Urals. Demidov, Sr. bought the collection earlier in Freiburg, Germany, and later supplemented it with the samples of Ural and Siberian ores. Subsequently numerous patrons, professors and royal family members followed in the footsteps of brothers Nikita and Pavel Demidov by presenting numerous gifts to the University.

Initially the museum was housed in the library of the Aptekarsky House located on the Red Square. In 1971 it was moved to the University's main building in Mokhovaya St. In 1803 it was opened for broad public and in 1987 it gained state institution status**.

In our days its stocks include hundreds of thousands of exhibits. The current exposition displays 5,000 items on the following subjects: "World of Minerals", "Earth and Its Biosphere", "Earth's Carbon", "Historical Collections", "Geological View of the Moscow Vicinity", among others. In 1988 an electronic version was produced of the

See: Yu. Burlakov, A. Smirnov, "Polar Region of Russia: Fossil Ivory", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2006. - Ed.

** See: I. Pavlinov, "At the Zoology Museum", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2006. - Ed.

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Geodynamic Globe with the databases reflecting the geo-dynamic processes of the late Cenozoic era. A three-dimensional scale-model of the Earth's surface and an educational computer program "Talking with Earth" have been produced. Thematic exhibitions, primarily "Russia's Gems", "300th Jubilee of Mining in Russia", among others, enjoy special popularity here.

The book's chapter telling the story of the RAS Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography named after Peter the Great (Cabinet of Curiosities) produces an indelible impression*. This famous academic institution set up by Peter I in 1714 was initially located in the so-called Kikin House, located near the Smolny Institute, in St. Petersburg. In 1728 it was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Royal court members in the building erected for the purpose on royal order. Subsequently the invaluable numerous collections of the Cabinet of Curiosities were used as a basis for seven specialized museums of the Academy of Sciences. Two of them, the Ethnographic and Anatomic Museums, were unified into the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in 1879. Currently there are 1.8 mln exhibits on display representing archeological, anthropological and photographic stocks. The museum has the following thematic displays permanently on view: History of the Cabinet of Curiosities; Australia and Oceania; Indonesia; Southeast Asia; Korea, Mongolia; China; Japan; Africa; America; Anatomic Rarities of the Cabinet of Curiosities.

The authors of the book present the picture of the institution's versatile activity that serves as the mirror image of Russia's history for the past 300 years. There were quite a few glorious periods in it associated with peaks in the devel-

See: A. Alimov et al., 'Alma Mater of National Zoology", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003. - Ed.

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opment of Russia's fleet, such as round-the-world voyages under the command of Ivan Kruzenstern and Yuri Lisyansky (1803 - 1806), Vassily Golovnin (1807 - 1809 and 1817 - 1819), Fedor Bellinsgausen and Mikhail Lazarev (1813 - 1825, 1819 - 1821) and Fedor Littke (1826 - 1829), among other. It goes to their credit that many discoveries were made and rich material was collected: collections devoted to geography, hydrology, meteorology, zoology, botany, linguistics and ethnography. Great contribution was made to science in the form of invaluable information of the culture of ethnic groups that had been unknown in Europe.

The Ethnography Cabinet of the Anthropological-and-Ethnographic Museum of the RAS Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology named after N.N. Miklukho-Maklay (Moscow) carries on the age-old traditions in this sphere. It has accumulated a wealth of materials associated with the life both of Siberian ethnic groups (Khanty, Evenks, Evens, Nivkhi, Nentsi, Teleuts, Chukchi) and those of Russia's European part (Veps, Komi, Kalmyks). Their clothes, kitchen utensils, work tools, objects of spiritual culture are displayed here. Unique plastic and graphic reconstruction of the appearance of people of ages long past-a total of over 2,000 storage units including plaster casts, gypsum models*, and so on, were produced as a result of copious work carried out by the Institute's special Laboratory-Museum.

The concluding chapters of the book are devoted to the activity of a number of other academic regional research and research-and-educational institutions, in particular P.K. Kozlov's** Museum-Apartment of the St. Petersburg Branch of the RAS Institute of the History of Natural Science and Technology named after S.I. Vavilov. Its exhibits show the nature and life of the people of the insufficiently studied regions of the Asian Continent (Mongolia, Western China and Tibet). There is also material about the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography of the Ethnological Research Center of the RAS Ufa Research Center (in particular, about the ethnic groups of the Southern Urals and of the area in the Lower Reaches of the Volga) and about the Museum of the History and Culture of Siberian Ethnic Groups of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the RAS Siberian Branch (earlier-the Museum of the History and Culture of Siberian Ethnic Groups, in Novosibirsk).

In conclusion it should be noted that the book looks magnificent, which is certainly to the credit of the publishing house. It will no doubt serve as an outstanding contribution not only to large state libraries but also to private collections and attract the attention of many admirers of Russia's history and culture.

Illustrations supplied from the book "History of Russia in the Expositions and Stocks of Museums of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

* See: O. Bazanova, "Faces of Ages Long Past", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2007. - Ed.

** Kozlov, Pyotr (1863 - 1935). an explorer of Central Asia who discovered the ruins of the ancient city of Khara-Khoto and of the Huns' burial mounds. - Ed.


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