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Beginning of the revival of the Maritime Museum (1850-1867)


For a long time, the Model Chamber existed in a pitiful state. In 1834 it came under the supervision of the Administration of General Commissary and in 1840s the items were placed into a small storage room in the courtyard of the Admiralty. The Crimean war revived the public interest in the Navy. Reforms began in the country and changes were introduced to the Navy. At the times when sailing ships gave way to armored steamers, the matter of studying technical and military experience was brought to light. Methods of teaching and training crews had to be changed, and the demand to preserve its historical legacy as well as its exhibitions newest technical achievements appeared. Eventually the Naval Command turned their attention to the Model Chamber. Since 1856, experienced fleet officers, instead of commissariat officials, were appointed to head the Chamber.

In 1859 the magazine “Morskoy Vestnik” (Maritime Bulletin) published the article that drew attention to the utmost importance of the collection in the Model Chamber, ‘…a visit which could be very useful to the public, and Russian seamanship in general, promoting it in society.’ This was the first but rather uncertain appeal. More confident opinion was expressed four years later. In 1863 another newspaper wrote about ‘forgotten trophies’ that ‘…were obtained by our sailors with whole-hearted selflessness’ and by that time ‘…were tucked away in various now-forgotten places and retrieving these history articles precious for the fleet will be a hard task.’ The article did not pass unnoticed and the demands of the maritime community had effect. The Naval Ministry issued the order to ‘put forward considerations on measures to be undertaken to bring together the objects of historical significance for seamanship, that are scattered in many places, thus laying in Saint Petersburg the foundations for the maritime museum where the said objects could be  preserved better and being brought together and arranged, might gain in importance and attraction.’

A memorandum compiled by Captain 2nd Rank S. I. Elagin and Captain Lieutenant L. A. Ukhtomsky under the direction of Naval Chancellery Vice Director K. A. Mann, proved the demand and potential for the maritime museum's rebirth. It offered a clear and exhaustive concept for the museum. With the fate of the previous Maritime Museum in mind, the authors of the concept restricted the scope of museum collections to the maritime aspect, thus clearly defining the profile of the would-be museum. The collections from the Model Chamber were supposed to make the basis with further sourcing from shipyards, naval and artillery offices and storages.

Many side-issues had to be solved to fulfill these ambitious plans. An energetic and competent person was required, who could bring order to the Model Chamber and supervise the rebirth of the Maritime Museum. Lieutenant Nicholas Baranov was selected; he had a reputation of a talented armourer. Later he became famous during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, when he commanded the armed steamers  “Vesta”  and  “Rossia” ; later he was among the founders of the Voluntary fleet, the Governor of Saint-Petersburg, and of Arkhangelsk and Nizhny Novgorod Gubernias, and a senator.

In 1864 N. M. Baranov was appointed Chief of the Model Chamber. He had a tough job to do, as the Model Chamber at that time was just a place where models were stored lacking any kind of system of categorization. Baranov soon managed to bring order and systematize the collections and in 1866 he compiled the Catalogue of Saint-Petersburg Model Chamber and published it in the magazine “Morskoy Sbornik”  (‘Collected Maritime Articles’); it became the first printed catalogue in the history of the collection.

While building the museum, Baranov followed his own concept, which was more elaborate than that of Mann, Elagin and Ukhtomsky. Due to his concept, the museum was to become an institution to preserve naval monuments and reflect the contemporary state of the Navy at the same time. The museum was supposed to promote the monuments of combat glory and technical craftsmanship, aid in crew training and maintain its research profile as well.