The Fersman Mineralogical MuseumRussian: Mineralogicheskiy muzey im. A. Fersmana or Минералогический музей им. А. Ферсмана is one of the most interesting natural science museums in Russia. Its history spans over 300 years, and it is second to none in our country when it comes to the size of its collections. The museum collection amounts to about 140 thousand specimens representing all known types of minerals from all over the world. There are 20 themed displays in the museum in total. They are grouped by section, for example: “Classification of MineralsRussian: Sistematika vidov or Систематика видов”, “Processes of Mineral FormationRussian: Mineraloobrazuyuschie protsessy or Минералообразующие процессы”, “Most Common MineralsRussian: Samye rasprostranennye mineraly or Самые распространенные минералы”, “Colours of MineralsRussian: Tsveta mineralov or Цвета минералов”, “Minerals Discovered in RussiaRussian: Mineraly, otkrytye v Rossii or Минералы, открытые в России”, “Precious and Ornamental StonesRussian: Dragotsennye i podelochnye kamni or Драгоценные и поделочные камни”, “CrystalsRussian: Kristally or Кристаллы”, and others.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The museum owes its existence to Emperor Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725. In 1716, the Emperor purchased a collection of over a thousand minerals, thus laying the foundation of the first Russian museum. At the time, it was called the Mineral cabinetRussian: Mineralnyi kabinet or Минеральный кабинет and was part of the KunstkammerRussian: Kunstkamera or Кунсткамера in Saint-Petersburg. A few years later, Peter the Great issued an order to organise a mineralogical expedition to Siberia to “search for stones and all sorts of ore”. After the foundation of the Academy of SciencesRussian: Akademiya nauk or Академия наук, it was put in charge of the collection. Thus the collection became the basis for scientific work and research of Russia’s rich mineral resources for many generations of Russian scientists.
Major Russian scientists took part in increasing the museum collections including M. Lomonosov, P. Pallas, I. Gregory, S. Krasheninnikov, V. Vernadsky, A. Fersman and others. The collection was significantly extended over two centuries, and in 1934 a decision was made to move it to Moscow. This fell around the time when the city had firmly asserted itself as the capital, and its status returned to it by the Soviet authorities.
The Mineralogical Museum was extremely lucky to be given a building which had belonged to Count Alexey Orlova Russian soldier and statesman, who rose to prominence during the reign of Catherine the Great. The former comfortable and spacious riding-house of the Neskuchny GardenRussian: Neskushny sad or Нескучный сад estate, which is, above all, a monument of architecture of the 19th century, is a great place for the extensive mineralogical collection. Everything is well thought-out, exhibits are classified and presented so as to maximise their study by both curious visitors and scientists. The museum has borne the name of its first director and mineralogist academician Alexander Fersman since 1956.
The museum is located near the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река opposite the building occupied by the Presidium of the Academy of SciencesRussian: Prezidium Akademii nauk or Президиум Академии наук. The Donskoy MonasteryRussian: Donskoy monastyr or Донской монастырь – one of the oldest monasteries in Moscow, the marvellous architectural complex of the Golitsyn hospitalRussian: Golitsinskaya bolnitsa or Голицынская больница created by architect M. Kazakov in the late 19th century, and the famous Soviet Gorky ParkRussian: Park kultury i otdykha imeni Gorkogo or Парк культуры и отдыха имени Горького are located nearby.
The scientific community called Friends’ of Mineralogy Moscow ClubRussian: Moskovskiy klub druzey mineralogii or Московский клуб друзей минералогии, established in 2002, holds regular meetings for enthusiasts and professionals on the museum premises. You can join the meetings on any Friday you like. Everybody’s welcome!
Besides the well known Tretyakov gallery and the State Historical Museum, there are a lot of interesting galleries and (house) museums in Moscow. If you want to learn more about museums in Moscow or to visit any famous art gallery Moscow or Moscow museum of modern art, you can find a lot of useful information on our webpages.
MINERALOGICAL MUSEUM TODAY. THE DISPLAY
At present the Mineralogical Museum is a large research institution affiliated with the Academy of Sciences. It is hard to believe, but the huge floor space of the museum gives the opportunity to display only 1/12 of the collection! Over 50 cases contain thousands of various minerals, refuse stones, geodes, aggregates, hollow druses, etc. Many of them have not been processed while others are thoroughly polished. The museum also boasts an incredible collection of stone masonry works, both ancient and new, as well as its collection of precious stones. Many of the exhibits can be carefully examined as they are equipped with special magnifying lenses.
The museum’s charm lies in its collection of works by the famous jewellers Faberges as well as an incredible collection of meteorites. The museum also houses an extensive collection of precious gemstones and jewellery of different counties and epochs. Obviously, all the riches of the museum collection cannot be described in just a few words. We will briefly tell you about some of the most outstanding exhibits.
It is probably only in the Mineralogical Museum that you can see over 4800 specimens of crystals representing 7 syngonies (crystal systems); there are more than 2000 specimens representing different crystal growth modes as well as models of crystal change and substitution.
Between the numerous cases you can see aggregates of minerals and geodes standing separately. The triplet junction of amethyst geodes from Brasil and the magnificent quartz crystals are particularly interesting.
Many of the stones exhibited in the museum have their own unique story to tell. For example, you can see an inherently Russian stone here – charoite which can only be quarried in the River CharaRussian: reka Chara or река Чара region in Siberia; alexandrite, which was named after Emperor Alexander II murdered in 1881; a set of stationery made of Badakhshan lazurite – a legendary stone from Afghanistan – given to the Head of the Soviet Union N. Khrushchev by Zahir Shah, and many others.
The famous Faberge collection includes, among other things, the last unfinished work of the company – an Easter egg made of lead crystal called “Tsesarevich AlekseyRussian: Цесаревич Алексей”. The company gave over 300 precious and ornamental stones to the museum in total.
Furthermore, the museum houses stationery sets made of precious stones, small sculptures, carved figurines and brooches, press papier, vases, etc. All these things were made from the planet’s most beautiful minerals at various epochs.
In the centre of the hall, you will see a giant vase made of malachite. From reading the information provided on the exhibit, you will discover how the quarrying of this unique stone started in the Urals. You can also see it in its natural shape showcased in the museum. In particular, there is one of the first specimens of Ural malachite on display. It came to the museum’s collection as far back as in 1795. The wealth of the Urals, which has not yet been exhausted, is illustrated by the famous “GorkaRussian: Горка”. It is a free-standing sculpture made of precious and semi-precious stones fixed on malachite. The sculpture was created by Siberian jewelers.
Another mineral which instantly attracts attention is pyrite. It can illustrate the famous Russian proverb: “All is not gold that glitters”. A combination of sulfur and iron, pyrite is often called “fool’s gold” as it glitters from a distance and indeed looks like a precious metal.
Emerald (Smaragdus) is a symbol of wisdom and has always been highly valued in Russia. In the Middle Ages, this stone was believed to be a magical lucky charm protecting from poison and snake bites. According to legend, the famous Holy Grail and the tablets of the god Thoth were carved of emerald. In Russia they say that the stone infuses wisdom and cold blood into its owner. In the museum you can see the most valuable Russian gemstones – emeralds from the “Emerald DiggingsRussian: Izumrudniye kopi or Изумрудные копи” deposit in the Urals, discovered in the 18th century.
Native platina, silver, and gold, which are presented in the form of ingots of different shapes – from corn-shaped to palm-shaped – are just as fascinating as those mentioned above. Here, these metals, such a rarity in nature, literally fill up several cases of the museum.
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