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Encyclopedia of Peter's Kunstkammer

Peter the Great is probably the only political figure in the history of Russia whose name is always connected in the Russian mind with that of a great reformer. His time was marked by wondrous achievements, brilliant military victories and Russia's entrance into the "family" of European countries. We hardly even realize how many attributes of our contemporary life are connected with the name of Peter the Great: the army, the navy, the calendar, the city's canals and harbors, the postal service and wine-making, trade, newspapers, drug-stores, clinics, medicines, academies and a great number of other things.

Peter visited western Europe at the age of 25. In 1697 he traveled abroad as part of the Great Embassy, and there for the first time saw those strange "kunst" cabinets, i.e. exhibitions of rarities and oddities. They reminded him of trading stalls, where jars containing pickled specimens of freaks were on display along with old coins, stuffed birds and skeletons of animals... each one furnished with some ancient inscription in an unknown language. Peter's tour abroad lasted for nearly 18 months and during this time he took interest in foreign ways of life and tried to study all aspects of European culture. The inquisitive tsar spent fortunes buying both whole collections and separate objects: books, instruments, tools, weapons and natural rarities to be sent promptly to Russia. In such a way Peter accumulated the first group of objects in Russia large enough to be called a collection. It formed the foundation of the "Tsar's Cabinet", and then of Peter's Kunstkammer.

The first Russian museum

Construction of the Kunstkammer building

Foundations of the academy library

The first pages in the history of the academy of sciences

The Kunstkammer in the 18th century

Collection of Peter's Kunstkammer

The Emperor's study
Kunst-cabinet
Natur-cabinet
Muntz-cabinet
Cabinet of Physics
Anatomical collections