Kunstkammer (Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography)


The Kunstkammer is Russia's first museum, established by Peter I in 1714 and translated as 'cabinet of curiosities'. The Baroque building of the Kunstkammer was built in 1734 and remains the oldest museum building in the world. Its collection was available for general public and the entrance to the Kunstkammer was free. More interestingly, the tsar even ordered to give coffee or, for example, a shot of vodka to everyone coming to the museum of curiosities in a group or with a company.

Peter I started to collect the first exhibits for the museum straight after his journey to Europe. He purchased a collection of anatomy curiosities, a set of exotic animals, fish, reptiles and insects. In the beginning the Kunstkammer was even home to some living 'exhibits', which were people with abnormalities, who were on display to the audience. Thus, one of them was called Foma and was a dwarf (126 cm high) having only 2 pincer-like fingers on each arm and leg. He lived within the Kunstkammer for more than 15 years. Also Peter issued a decree, according to which unusual people, cattle, animals and birds were to be shipped to St. Petersburg for a high remuneration.

The tower of the building long displayed the famous Globe of Gottorf, the first and at that time the largest astronomical and astrological globe in the world (3.1 m in diameter weighing 3.5 tons). The globe is designed to enable its rims, the outer globe with the Earth map and the inner with constellations, to rotate simultaneously. 12 people at once could watch the 'globe show' from the inside of it. The globe was taken to St. Petersburg as a diplomatic gift to Peter I, and it took 3 years to transfer it. In 1747 the globe burnt during a strong fire and in several years restored by Petersburg masters thus getting a new name, Big Academic Globe. In order to see this unusual exhibit you should purchase a tour along the 4th and 5th floors.

Today, the museum storage comprises more than 1 million exhibits, including objects dedicated to culture and traditions of different countries and peoples of North America, Japan, Africa, China and Mongolia, India and Indonesia, Australia and Oceania. The hall dedicated to anatomy features a collection of anatomic deviations and different natural curiosities, such as conjoined twins, a two-headed calf, etc. There are also displays telling about the Petersburg Academy of Sciences and the great scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, who contributed greatly to the establishment of this museum between 1741 to 1765.

Address: Universitetskaya Emb., 3 (Universitetskaya naberezhnaya, 3)
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11 am – 7 pm, ticket office till 6 pm, closed on Mon and last Tue of the month.
How to reach: Admiralteyskaya, Nevskiy Prospekt, Gostiny Dvor, Vasileostrovskaya metro stations
Coordinates: 59.941440, 30.304397