St.Petersburg Kunstkammer

This week I started by visiting Kunstkammer aka Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. It’s been 15 years since I have been there and needed to refresh my memory.

My impressions after the visit are still mixed. On one hand, the collection is quite diverse and covers nations far away from Russian (nearer nations are presented in the Russian Museum of Etnography) – Africa, India, Indonesia, Middle East, Northern America – with lots of everyday items, often curious for modern world.

On the other hand, part of the collections are still on display with outdated descriptions and pictures. It is especially visible in the hall of Japan where “modern” Japanese life is represented by 1950s photos. However, I need to say that this part is being improved and almost every room in the Chamber has an electronic display with thorough information on the collections.

Another negative thing is that the displays which have recently received “facelifts” with new description boards are very inconvenient to use. The display usually holds up to 20-40 different items with only numbers below them whereas the description is located at about half a meter from the display itself. This means that most of the unusual items will be lost for a visitor since I can not imagine 90% of visitors being so stubborn and consistent to look up what each piece on display actually meant in life.

For first-time visitors a room with the natural science collection will be of major interest. It is here that Peter the Great collected rarities and curiousities brought from all over Russia. Two-headed babies and four-armed lamb usually attract visitors to the museum and therefore I believe Kunstkammer is worth a visit at least once.

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