Transsib Attractions: Local Lore Museum, IrkutskThe Irkutsk's museum of regional studies is one of the oldest museums in Russia. It was founded in 1782. Mr. Erick Lacksman, an honoured member of the Russian Academy of Sciences was assigned to organize the museum. At first the museum was housed in a single room in the town's public library. Later on since 1805 the Irkutsk's provincial Grammar school became in charge of the museum.
In 1854 the museum was handed to the East Siberian Department of the Emperor's Russian Geographic Society. This event was a major landmark in the life of the museum. After 1854 the museum's collections were enriched with the artifacts gathered by Mr. R. Maak's expedition in 1853 (the region of the river Vilyui), by Mr. A. P. Shyapov's expedition in 1856 (the region of Turuhan), by Mr. I. A. Lopatin's expedition and by Mr. P. A. Kropotkin's expedition. They were as well enriched with the artifacts gathered by Ms. I. D. Chersky, A. P. Chekonovsky, V. I. Dybovsky, B. Godlevsky (polish rebels exiled in Siberia).
In 1879 during the Great Fire of Irkutsk all the collections, all the books in the library and the building of the museum perished. By raising money to erect a new stone building of the museum the citizens of Irkutsk best proved their love to the motherland, demonstrated their desire to learn more about it and to give this knowledge to the future generations. In October 6, 1883 the new building of the museum was opened with solemnity. This building erected in the Moorish style was designed by the architect Baron Rosen. The building itself became a monument to the famous explorers of Asia because their surnames were engraved on its frieze. In the new museum actively worked such outstanding scientists as Ms. N. M. Yadrintsev, G. N. Potanin, D. A. Klements, V. A. Agapitov, M. P. Ovchinnikov and others. In 1898 the museum successfully took part in the World Exhibition in Paris. By the end of the XIX-th century the museum housed more than 20 000 artifacts.
After the Great October Revolution (1917) the museum received extra accommodations, the needed finances and initiated the systematic researches of this vast province. In the museum in the early years of the Soviet Power were engaged in research such famous scientists as Ms. A. P. Okladnickov, M. M. Gerasimov, G. F. Debets, F. A. Kudryavtsev, Mrs. V. I. Mihailovsky, Ms. P.P. Horoshih, M. K. Odintsov, V. I. Podgordunsky and B. I. Lebedinsky.
In 1920 in the museum there appeared the Department of Natural History.
In 1936 the museum was divided into two parts: the Museum of Regional Studies and the Art Gallery.
By December, 1970 the Prince Trubetskoy's premises in Irkutsk were completely restored. And a new Decemberists Museum was opened there. Then fifteen years passed and in December, 1985 after eleven years of restoration the Prince Volkonsky's premises in Irkutsk were opened for visitors.
From 1982 to 1994 the Irkutsk's Museum of Regional Studies was part and parcel of the Irkutsk's State United Museum. The Irkutsk's State United Museum was a methodical centre for the whole province.
In 1982 in the building of the former Church of Our Saviour (this monument of the XVIII-th century had been restored for a long time) the Exhibition Department was opened.
With the purpose of the museumification of cities and regions of the Irkutsk province the Irkutsk's Museum of Regional Studies in January, 1992 organized a special Methodist Department.
The Artifact Depository of our museum is the largest one in the East of Russia. The museum pieces stored there have to do with the material and spiritual culture of the peoples of Central Asia. The majority of the museum pieces were gathered in the exploring expeditions held by the outstanding scientists, members of the East Siberian Department of the Emperor's Russian Geographic Society.
The ethnographic collections on the peoples of Siberia, Far East, Kamchatka, Korea, China and Mongolia include about 30 000 museum pieces. The unique archeological collections include 100 000 museum pieces and among them there are nephrite artifacts belonging to the Neolithic Age. The Photograph Department of the museum's Depository houses 40 000 photos. Besides all this the museum's Depository houses the collection of the Orthodox cult objects as well as the largest collection of the Orthodox silverware manufactured by the Irkutsk silversmiths. The collections in the Department of Natural History (including 10 000 museum pieces) characterize the Fauna, the Flora and the Natural Resources of the Irkutsk province.
The museum has a library which is one of the richest libraries on Siberian studies in Russia. In this library there are about 90 000 books, newspapers, magazines, journals, materials concerning the expeditions and researches carried out by the scientists of the East Siberian Department of the Emperor's Russian Geographic Society.
In the library there is also a collection of the old Chinese books (XVIII - XIX-th centuries), numbering 440 volumes.