The legend says that Peter the Great was once walking along Neva River and saw two peculiar pine-trees – the trunk of one tree had grown into the truck of other one, so it was impossible to distinguish between their branches. This is how the idea of museum was born. Evidently, the Tsar had seen these trees, as one of the oldest exhibits of Kunstkamera was a piece of trunk with a branch grown into it. However, these pine trees were not the only motive behind the idea. Back during the period of Grand Embassy the inquisitive Tsar would examine foreign cabinets of curiosities, visit anatomic courses, met the scientists and talked to them. Following the results of these visits, he would buy collections, books, instruments and tools. However, it was not just squandering of public funds. In the parlance of our time, Peter the Great invested in education. Having enlightened himself, the Tsar started enlightening his people. “For the purpose of education and development of knowledge about animated nature,” he founded the first Russian museum of natural history and called it Kunstkamera, which is translated from German language (the one that the Tsar liked) as cabinet of curiosities. The Tsar ruled to house the collection of curiosities in the Summer Palace and ordered “to let all those wishing to see them in, as well as to show and describe the exhibits to the public.” As the people were not willing to look at the monsters believing them to be Demon seed, the state treasury allocated 400 rubles annually for alluring the public. In full accordance with Russian habits, the visitors were allured by a glass of vodka and salted cucumber as a snack. The plan worked out, and the visitors would come in crowds. Later, the museum was removed to the Kikiny Palaty (Kikin Chambers), while the authorities started building special premises for the Kunstkamera on Vasilievsky Island. It is now the oldest building constructed for the museum in the world, and the employees of Kunstkamera are proud of it.
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Information provided by the Scientific Russia News Agency. Media outlet’s registration certificate: IA No. FS77-62580 issued by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media on July 31, 2015.
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