Cultural Anthropology Museums

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cultural Anthropology Museums


scientific institutions that collect, store, study, and make available to the public collections that provide a picture of the culture, everyday life, social relations, and social structure of various peoples.

Prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR. Several independent museums of the Academy of Sciences were created from the Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg. The Asian Museum (founded 1818) inherited the collections of the Kunstkamera relating to the culture and everyday life of the peoples of Southwest and Middle Asia, the Far East, Siberia, and the Volga Region. The Egyptian Museum (1825) received the collections pertaining to the peoples of Egypt, and the Ethnographic Museum (1836) inherited the collections dealing with the peoples of European Russia and Western Europe. In 1879 the greater part of these collections was turned over to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, which soon became Russia’s largest museum of cultural anthropology, with exhibits illustrating the anthropological types of the world’s peoples and their ancient and contemporary material culture and beliefs.

In 1831 the Rumiantsev Museum was opened in St. Petersburg. The museum, which exhibited collections dealing with the culture and everyday life of the peoples of Oceania and the Far East, moved to Moscow in 1861 and added collections devoted to the peoples of Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus. In 1867 the All-Russian Ethnographic Exposition opened in Moscow; its collection formed the nucleus of the Dashkov Museum, which specialized in the ethnography of the peoples of Russia. The Ethnographic Museum of the Kharkov Historical and Philological Society was founded in 1900; it collected material pertaining to the Ukrainians. The Russian Museum, established in St. Petersburg in 1895, had a division of the ethnography of the Russian Empire, the Slavs, and the peoples of neighboring countries; its collections were built up through special programs.

Large ethnographic collections were assembled by the branches and museums of the Russian Geographic Society and by the following provincial and city museums: Irkutsk (founded 1872), Minusinsk (1877), Tiumen’ (1879), Vladivostok (1890), Yakutsk (1891), Khabarovsk (1894), and Chita (1895), all devoted to the peoples of Siberia and the Far East; Saratov (1877), and Kazan (1891), both dealing with the peoples of the Volga Region; Smolensk (1888), Riazan’ (1884), Arkhangel’sk (1895), and Rostov-on-Don (1898), all relating to the everyday life of the Russians; L’vov (1895), dealing with the culture of the Ukrainian people; Vilnius (1856), Riga (1896) and Tartu (1909), all devoted to the Baltic peoples; and Tashkent (1876), dealing with the peoples of Middle Asia and Kazakhstan. In addition, the Caucasian Museum in Tbilisi (1852) had collections devoted to the peoples of the Caucasus.

In the Soviet period, the Rumiantsev and Dashkov collections in Moscow formed the basis for the Central Museum of Folk Studies, founded in 1924, and later for the Museum of the Peoples of the USSR.

In Leningrad, the Ethnographic Division of the Russian Museum acquired independent status in 1934, when it became the State Museum of the Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR. The museum regularly added to its collections by means of expeditions. In 1948 it inherited the collections of the Museum of the Peoples of the USSR, which was closed down during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. The exhibits at the State Museum provide a picture of the culture and everyday life of the peoples of the USSR—Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, and the peoples of the Baltic Region, the Volga Region, Siberia, the Far East, Middle Asia, and the Caucasus—in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the museum also has exhibits devoted to the contemporary culture and everyday life of the peoples of the socialist countries.

The exhibits of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, which are structured on historico-geographic principles, reflect an interdisciplinary approach in their presentation. The exhibits deal with the most primitive stages in the development of man and society and with the culture and everyday life of the world’s peoples.

The study of local lore has developed considerably in the Soviet period. New museums that devote considerable space to cultural anthropology exhibits have been established, among them the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan (Alma-Ata, 1924), the Historical Museum of the Kirghiz SSR (Frunze, 1926), the State Museum of the History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan (Tashkent, 1918), and the museums of history and ethnography of such regions as Abkhazia (Sukhumi, 1917), Armenia (Yerevan, 1921), Georgia (Tbilisi, 1926), Azerbaijan (Baku, 1921), Tuva (Kyzyl, 1928), Udmurtia (Izhevsk, 1921), the Mari ASSR (Ioshkar-Ola, 1924), and Tadzhikistan (Dushanbe, 1933).

Various open-air museum-preserves have been established, notably the Ethnographic Museum of the Latvian SSR (the Brivdabas Museum; Riga, 1928), the Estonian Museum-Park of National Architecture and Culture (Rocca al Mare, 1957), the Outdoor Museum of History and Maritime Fishing (Ventspils, 1954), the Historical and Ethnographic Museum of the Lithuanian SSR (1965), and the Museum of Culture (Tbilisi, 1962). There are open-air museum-preserves of history, architecture, and art at Kostroma (1963), Rostov (Yaroslavl Oblast; 1959), Kolomenskoe (1934), and Malye Korely, near Arkhangel’sk (1968). Various cities, including Kiev and L’vov, have museums of folk architecture and culture.

Soviet cultural anthropology museums provide striking evidence of the principle of equality among cultures. Considerable attention is devoted to presenting both the old ways of life and the emergence of the everyday life of the new socialist society.

Other countries. In the European socialist countries there are important cultural anthropology collections at the Ethnographic Museum (Budapest, 1872) in Hungary, the Ethnographic Museum and State Research Center (Leipzig, 1869) and the State Museum of Ethnology (Dresden, 1875) in the German Democratic Republic, the Museum of the History of Transylvania (Cluj-Napoca, 1922) and the open-air Village Museum (Bucharest, 1936) in Rumania, the National Ethnographic Museum (Sofia, 1893) in Bulgaria, and the National Museum (Prague, 1818) and the Slovak National Museum (Martin, 1893) in Czechoslovakia. There are also museums in Poland (Warsaw, 1888; Kraków, 1905) and Yugoslavia (Belgrade, 1901; Zagreb, 1919). Cultural anthropology collections also exist in China, Mongolia, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Numerous museums in the capitalist countries house rich cultural anthropology collections, notably the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1683), the British Museum (London, 1753), the American Museum of Natural History (New York, 1869), and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, 1893); their exhibits cover many fields. Among the foreign museums that concentrate chiefly on cultural anthropology are the Ethnologic Museum (West Berlin, 1886), the National Museum of Folk Art and Customs (Paris, 1937), the Museum of Ethnology (Rotterdam, 1883), the Ethnographic Museum (Antwerp, 1890’s), and the Ethnographic Museum of Sweden (Stockholm, 1880). In addition to the Pueblo Grande Museum in Arizona (1929), there are outdoor museums of cultural anthropology at Skasen park in Stockholm (1891), Lillehammer, Norway (1904), Copenhagen (1901), Arnhem, the Netherlands (1912), and Oslo (1894).

Numerous foreign museums house collections dealing with both archaeology and cultural anthropology, among them the Hamburg Ethnologic Museum (1879) and the State Museum of Ethnology (Munich, 1868) in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Ethnologic Museum (Vienna, 1876) in Austria, the National Museum of Ethnology (Leiden, 1837) in the Netherlands, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge, 1883) and the Pitt-Rivers Museum (Oxford, 1883) in Great Britain, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Cambridge, 1866) in the USA.

The most important museums combining collections devoted to physical anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology are the Museum of Man (Paris, 1937), which was formed from the Trocadero Museum (1878), and the National Museum of Natural Sciences (Ottawa, 1957). Extensive collections dealing with the everyday life of peoples under colonial rule are exhibited at the Dutch Colonial Museum (Haarlem, 1865), the Royal Museum of Central Africa (Tervuren, near Brussels; 1897), and the Ethnographic Department of the British Museum. Virtually all countries of the world have either museums that specialize in cultural anthropology or cultural anthropology departments in their national museums.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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