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Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera)

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Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) celebrated its 300 anniversary in 2014. One of the richest ethnographical museums in the world, it is a scholarly center of an international fame. The museum’s unique collections, acquired through the efforts of thousands of persons, participants of the great academic expeditions, circumnavigations of the Russian fleet, and numerous donators, are rightfully admired both in this country and abroad. Indeed, they were assembled by entire Russia, and today the nation is proud of its first museum.
When we speak about the Kunstkamera, the first association of a modern person, especially in Russia, would be of a collection of something abnormal, a collection of “freaks” or “monsters.” However, in the 18th century, the perception of the first public museum in Russia was quite different. Before anything else, it was a collection of curiosities, but curiosities not in the sense of something rarely occurring or really anomalous, but also of what is a normal way of natural development but hidden from human eyes. These secrets of nature, hidden deep in the earth, forests and fields, on the bottoms of the seas and oceans, in myriads of stars above our heads, and even inside our own body, were revealing to a Kunstkamera visitor. The Museum was not a mere collection of items but also a repository of man’s knowledge about the world and human beings. All this: museum items, the science never known to an ordinary Russian before, and even instruments which helped to obtain new knowledge – everything was gathered in one specially erected building which still bears the same name: the Kunstkamera.

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