Golovnev A. V. New Old Kunstkamera: Towards Reconstruction and Renovation

Andrei V. Golovnev
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Saint Petersburg, Russia 
E-mail: andrei_golovnev@bk.ru


 Download  |  Go to Issue #4. 2020


ABSTRACT.  Three motives intersect in the article: the museum universals from ancient times to the present, recent establishment of the Alliance of Early Universal Museums and the scheduled redisplay of the oldest Russian museum, the Kunstkamera (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences). The sections of the article are titled accordingly: “Universality of Museality”, “Experience of the Kunstkamera”, and “Outline of the Redisplay”. The phenomenon of museality is found in the very origins of human culture and in various ethnic traditions. The idea of the universal museum as theatrum mundi was reproduced in the St. Petersburg Kunstkamera, which has become the cradle of science and the mother of Russian museums. It repeated the main ideas of the ancient mouseion and Renaissance museum, being combined into a composite of museum, library, university, and academy. Today, both the reconstruction of the main features of the universal museum, expressed in terms of the redisplay of the Kunstkamera for the anniversary of Peter the Great in 2022, and the revival of its values have been articulated in the recent agreement on the creation of the Alliance of Early Universal Museums between the St. Petersburg Kunstkamera (MAE RAS), Wunderkammer, Franckesche Stiftungen (Halle, Germany), and Teyler’s Museum (Haarlem, the Netherlands). The Alliance aims to appeal to the ideas of the museum as theatrum mundi (‘theater of the world’) with its universality, encyclopedism and enlightenment. The concept of the universal museum is also incorporated in the three sections of the Kunstkamera redisplay: “The Origin of Man”, “A Journey around the World” and “The Birth of Science” (“Peter’s Kunstkamera, or the Tower of Knowledge”).


KEYWORDS: Kunstkamera, universal museum, museality, redisplay, theatrum mundi, Alliance of Early Universal Museums


УДК 061.1+069
DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2020-4(10)-20-31



  • Ananiev V. G. Istorija zarubezhnoj muzeologii: Idei, ljudi, instituty [History of Foreign Museology: Ideas, People, Institutions]. Moscow, 2018. (In Russian).
  • Anderson B. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. L.; N. Y., 1983.
  • Conte F. Ot jetnograficheskih muzeev k muzejam obshhestva. Razmyshlenija po povodu francuzskogo opyta [From Ethnographic Museums to Museums of Society. Reflections on the French experience] // Antropologicheskij forum [Forum for Anthropology and Culture]. 2007. No. 6. P. 41–47. (In Russian).
  • Golovnev A. V. Etnografija v rossijskoj akademicheskoj tradicii [Ethnography in the Russian Academic Tradition] // Etnografia. 2018. No. 1. P. 6–39. (In Russian).
  • Golovnev A. V. Muzejnoe myshlenie: soblazn otkrytija i instinkt hranenija [Museum Thinking: the Temptation of Discovery and the Instinct of Storage] // Kunstkamera. 2019. No. 3 (5). P. 9–18. (In Russian).
  • Golovnev A. V., Kisser T. S. Etnoportret Imperii v trudah P. S. Pallasa i I. G. Georgi [Ethnic Portrait of the Empire in the Works of P. S. Pallas and I. G. Georgi] // Ural Historical Journal. 2015. No. 3 (48). P. 59–69. (In Russian).
  • Engelsman S. Muzejnye kollekcii, zadachi, dejstvija [Museum Collections, Tasks, Actions] // Forum for Anthropology and Culture [Forum for Anthropology and Culture]. 2007. No. 6. P. 118–124. (In Russian).
  • Kudryavtsev O. F. Florentijskaja platonovskaja akademija: ocherk istorii duhovnoj zhizni Renessansnoj Italii [Florentine Platonic Academy: Essay on the history of the spiritual life of Renaissance Italy]. 2nd ed. Moscow, 2018. (In Russian).
  • Navarro O. History and Memory in a Modern Museum: Some Remarks from the Point of View of Critical Museology // Questions of Museology. 2010. No. 2. P. 3–11.
  • Plutarch. Sravnitel'nye zhizneopisanija [Comparative Biographies]. Vol. 1. Moscow, 1994. (In Russian).
  • Porshnev V. P. Musej v kul'turnom nasledii antichnosti[Musei in Cultural Heritage of Antiquity]. Moscow, 2012. (In Russian).
  • Robinson B. A. Mount Helikon and the Valley of the Muses: the Production of a Sacred Place // Journal of Roman Archaeology. 2012. Vol. 25, No 1. P. 227–258.
  • Shastel A. Iskusstvo i gumanizm vo Florentsii vremen Lorentso Velikolepnogo [Art and Humanism in Florence in the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent]. Moscow, St. Petersburg, 2001. (In Russian).
  • Shaw W. M. K. Possessors and Possessed. Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire. Berkeley, 2003.
  • Shnirelman V. A. Muzej i konstruirovanie social'noj pamjati: kul'turologicheskij podhod [Museum and Construction of Social Memory: a Cultural Approach] // Ethnographiсheskoe Obozrenie. No. 4. 2010. P. 8–26. (In Russian).
  • Stanyukovich T. V. Kunstkamera Peterburgskoj akademii nauk [Kunstkamera of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences]. Moscow–Leningrad, 1953. (In Russian).
  • Stránský Z. Z. Archeologie a muzeologie. Brno, 2005.
  • Willett F. Museums: Two Case Studies of Reaction to Colonialism // The Politics of the Past. Eds. P. Gathercole, D. Lowenthal. L., 1990. P. 172–188.
  • Vermeulen H. F. Before Boas: the Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment. Lincoln & London, 2015.