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Central Naval Museum. Moving to the Stock Exchange building (1917-1940)


In summer 1917, after the German troops seized Riga (in the course of WWI), the directorate of the museum was to elaborate the plan of evacuating collections. The director of the Museum reported that many models were impossible to take away because of their huge size but smaller models from the times of Peter I, portraits and paintings by famous painters, Peter’s memorabilia, most precious weapons and silverware were possible to be evacuated. The articles were packed in crates and on August 29, 1917 the museum was closed for visitors. This was the situation in the museum when the October Revolution happened and the Brest Treaty was signed. Evacuation was never more discussed.

As the Maritime museum failed to take its collections away in 1917, the museum could reopen on February 24, 1918, much earlier than other institutions of the same kind. Four days after, the official decree changed the museum’s name to the Central Maritime Museum of the Soviet Republic. In March of the same year the Naval Ministry ordered to close the museum because of the dangerous war situation. At the urgent requests of visitors, groups of sailors, soldiers and students were still allowed to see the exhibits.

On August 24, 1939 the Central Naval Museum received the building of the Stock Exchange, one of the most beautiful houses in the heart of Saint Petersburg, built to the design of J.-F. Tomas de Tomon between 1805 and 1816. At the same time, the museum for the first time in its history was staffed with a sufficient number of curators.

To transfer the exhibits to the new building, much work had to be done. Handlers, heavers and naval cadets worked together with curators and museum workers. Fragile ship models made of turtle shell and ivory were handled with the greatest care. Short of time, people had to work 11 or 13 hours a day. On February 6, 1941 the formal ceremony of opening the museum took place.

The displays in nine rooms in the building of the Stock Exchange were arranged following a chronological principle, and described the history of the Russian Navy till 1917, the participation of naval sailors in the October Revolution and Civil War, and the creation of the Soviet Navy from 1921 to 1940.