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State Polytechnical Museum (Moscow)

3/4 Novaya Square, Doorway № 1, Moscow (tel.: + 7 495 625-06-14, + 7 495 621-02-90), Metro stations: "Kitai-gorod", "Lubyanka".


The State Polytechnical Museum (the Museum, for short) is the main Russian national museum of science and technology as well as the main Russian educational and cultural leisure centre.

The idea of establishing the Museum took shape in the 1860s, which was a very significant time for Russia. This was the epoch when Tsar Alexander II performed his great reforms. The foundations of the Russian capitalism were being developed and new technical ideas and knowledge were required.

In 1863, the Imperial Society of Natural Science, Anthropology and Ethnography Lovers (the Society, for short) was established. The scientists, members of the Society, defined the main task of the Society as assisting development of science and dissemination of knowledge related to the natural science. The first step of the Society members was foundation of a public library, which is now known as the Central Polytechnical Library. Later, in 1872 the Society founded the Museum as an educational museum of applied science.

The idea of establishing a scientific and educational centre that would disseminate knowledge and experience as well as provide opportunities for discussing new ideas in public and shaping public opinion was supported by scientific intellectuals, the Russian government, the Moscow city council and members of the Russian business community. On 23rd September 1872, by an imperial decree of Alexander II the Committee for Establishing and Managing the Moscow Museum of Applied Science (the Committee, for short) was formed.

The honorary president of the Committee was Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich. The Committee also included Moscow Governor General V. A. Dolgorukov, Moscow City Mayor I. A. Lyamin, Vice President of the Society A. Y. Davidov, Professor A. P. Bogdanov and Director of the Imperial Technical School V. K. Della-Vos.

The original collection of the Museum was based on a part of the exposition of the 1872 All-Russian Polytechnical Exhibition dedicated to the 200th birthday of Peter the Great.

After the exhibition had been closed, its exhibits were moved to a building in Prechistenka Street, and on 12th December 1872 (New Style) the Museum was opened to the public for the first time.

In May 1875, a new building of the Museum had its first stone put in place in Lubyanskaya (Novaya) Square. In accordance with the project of the Russian architect I. A. Monighetti, the central section of the Museum was erected in the Russian Byzantine Revival style. In 1877, the collections of the Museum moved to their permanent place.

The building of the Museum was being built for 30 more years by the Russian architects N. A. Shokhin, A. E. Weber and Duke G. I. Makayev. In 1896, the right wing was erected, followed in 1907 by the left wing that included the famous Grand Auditorium.

The specialisation of the new museum was determined as technological and industrial. Its purpose was formulated as assisting "dissemination of knowledge between members of the uneducated classes" and "development of technical knowledge in general". The founders of the Museum intended to solve the set tasks by building collections with the effort of the Society members as well as by obtaining materials and objects that reflected achievements of the natural and technical sciences, by creating expositions and by performing oral explanations and by organising various kinds of public lectures. For many years, these tasks were the main tasks of the Museum. The Museum soon became popular and, most importantly, affordable virtually for everybody, thanks to its clear vision of what it should become for the Russians.

Significant roles in it were played by such prominent scientists and engineers as P. N. Lebedev, K. A. Timiryazev, N. Y. Zhukovsky and A. G. Stoletov. Many prominent people such as N. A. Umov, P. P. Lazarev, F. A. Bredikhin, S. A. Chaplygin, I. A. Kablukov and D. N. Pryanishnikov held lectures at the Museum. Many new technical ideas such as telephone, radio, and electric lights were discussed and approved there.

In 1925, the 1st All-Soviet Radio Technology Exhibition was held at the Museum.

It was after the Grand Auditorium had been completed in 1907 that the educational activity of the Museum started developing especially well; the Grand Auditorium later became the main lecture hall of Moscow.

It became possible to arrange public scientific experiments, lectures, discussions, conferences and literary evenings. All this attracted a great number of visitors and since late 19th century/the first decade of the 20th century the Museum has become the main Russian scientific, cultural and educational centre. The work of the scientific library of the Museum has greatly contributed to this. The library possesses the largest Russian collection of scientific and technical literature. It is hard to imagine now that the collection started from merely 9 books, because currently it contains about 3.5 million books, newspaper and journal copies in Russian and other languages including very rare ones. The library holdings also contain works of the world and Russian classics of science.

Since its foundation, the Museum has been introducing achievements of the human thought to its visitors. This idea was the corner stone of the Museum put by its founders; it remained the main idea even during the most difficult times. Since technical achievements influenced the philosophy and world outlook of the Russian people, the Museum became a "mirror" of the Russian society. All this influenced the social processes: illiterate people could learn here about truly magnificent inventions.

The holdings of the Museum have been developing for more than 130 years.

Currently, the holdings contain above 160,000 items; it is a historically shaped and scientifically organized set of museum objects.

The material, written, pictorial, video and audio sources on the history of science and technology are collected in accordance with the following lines of historical technology development:
– materials and technologies for obtaining and processing materials;
– information technologies;
– power generation;
– transportation;
– astronautics;
– science as the foundation of the Civilization.

The Resources of the Museum.
More than 100 collections (above 50,000 items of the main material items resources) present the versatile technology world and its development. The most significant collections of the material item resource are the following:
– miniature objects;
– sewing machines;
– time measuring devices;
– sound recording devices;
– radio receivers;
– telegraph devices;
– TV sets;
– telephone devices;
– telephone stations;
– photo cameras;
– cinema equipment;
– typewriters;
– juke-boxes;
– computing tools and devices;
– logarithmic tables and analogue computing devices;
– mathematical analogue devices;
– drawing tools and devices;
– computers;
– electronic musical instruments;
– calculators and computer games;
– punch-card computers;
– analogue and analogue-digital computers;
– digital computers;
– personal computers (PCs);
– electrical devices;
– light-emissive devices;
– miner's lamps;
– cars;
– motocycles;
– bicycles;
– spacecraft equipment;
– geophysical devices;
– geodesic devices and tools;
– meteorological devices;
– microscopes;
– gears;
– writing quills;
– galvanoplastic products;
– material processing industrial machines;
– welding equipment.

The Written Resources.
The written sources holding includes the document holding (above 25,000 items) and the printed sources holding (above 8,000 items).

The document holding includes materials from the archives of the Museum. The archives started developing around 1870 during the period of preparation and organization of the mentioned All-Russian Polytechnical Exhibition that laid the foundations of the Museum. A collection of documents on science and technology history were added to the holding later and have been purposefully expanding during the recent years.

The document holding contains different kinds of exhibits such as:
– A collection of documents on the history of the Museum: documents related to the Exhibition of 1872, documents related to the Museum of Applied Science, diplomas and certificates including certificates of acknowledgement and other prize papers of the Museum, photographic materials and albums on the history of the Museum, a collection of posters and materials on the exhibition-related activities of the Museum;
– A document collection of the Association of Naturalists at the Soviet Russian Ministry of Education (1918);
– A document collection of the Technology Palace (materials on the unimplemented construction project of 1930s);
– Personal collections (160 contributors (scientists, inventors and public figures) such as K. E. Tsiolkovsky, P. P. Petrov, V. R. Williams, D. K. Chernov, A. A. Sternfeld, N. N. Arkhipov, A. A. Lebedev, V. M. Glushkov, B. I. Rameyev, etc.).

The Printed Sources Holding.
This holding contains above 7,000 items of the main holding. It is organized by knowledge areas. It is represented by different kinds of printed materials: rare books of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, catalogues, price lists of trading and industrial companies from Russia and other counties, encyclopaedias, reference books, textbooks, technical literature (manufacturer descriptions, user manuals and manufacturer certificates).

The Pictorial Holding.
This holding (above 4,000 items of the main holding) includes:
– photographic materials;
– pictorial art (paintings and lithography), postcards, a collection of stamps related to the history of astronautics.

The Museum is especially proud of its collection of the old photonegatives and photographs that describes the development of the photographic processes from their invention to 1930s.

Many works contain explanations done by the authors themselves as well as autographs.

A collection of glass-based transparencies was created by the education department of the Museum (1872–1922). Presentations of collections were accompanied by demonstrations of exhibits and transparencies.

The main holding of photonegatives is not large. It mainly contains materials of 1980s that document space flight preparations of astronauts from the Soviet Union and other counties.

The main part of the scientific auxiliary holding (40,000 items) is made up by reproduced photonegatives related to different knowledge areas as well as portraits of scientists, inventors, engineers, people of science and technology, public figures and politicians. A separate collection is dedicated to photonegatives related to the unimplemented Technology Palace construction project (1930s); the photonegatives contain experiences of the major technical museums of Russia and other countries.

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State Polytechnical Museum