Contact information  •  History  •  Access & Facilities  •  Bibliography

ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia: H-235

Last update of repository: 18 March 2020

Gosudarstvennyi Ermitazh (GE)

Previous names
1764–1917   Imperatorskii Ermitazh
[Imperial Hermitage]
The Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world, was founded in 1764 as a repository for the works of art collected by Empress Catherine II in a separate building attached to the Winter Palace. From the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, purchases for the museum were made abroad and in Russia of many large private collections of paintings, engravings, drawings, objets d’art, coins, medals, books and manuscripts. The museum was first opened to the public in 1852.
        After the October Revolution it was given its present name. The museum holdings were considerably enlarged by nationalized art from the imperial suburban palaces; from several large private collections, such as those of the Stroganov, Iusupov, and Shuvalov families; from the museums of the Academy of Arts (H–237) and the Baron Stieglitz (Shtiglits) Museum of Industrial Art; and from the State Museum Fond (Gosudarstvennyi muzeinyi fond), a collecting organ for nationalized treasures. With the enlargement of its collections the museum took over the entire Winter Palace, and the museum structure was reorganized. During the 1920s and 30s many of the valuable museum treasures were turned over to various export agencies, including the All-Union Antiquarian Company (Vsesoiuznoe obshchestvo Antikvariat) or the so-called Export Fund, for sale abroad at auction and to diplomats and foreign businessmen within the country for foreign currency. Many other treasures from the State Museum Fond were given to museums throughout the USSR, including the A.S. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow (H–47), and especially those in non-Russian union republics. During the Second World War, a large part of the collections was evacuated to Sverdlovsk, but some treasures were lost during the blockade of Leningrad. The museum acquired many “trophy” works of art from Germany and Eastern Europe in the immediate postwar years, including many that had been sequestered by the Nazis from private sources.
        In December 1991 the State Hermitage was added to the federal register of the most valuable monuments of the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Russian Federation. Archival and other manuscript materials are found in many of the different divisions. Although drawings and some other graphic materials in its collections are usually classified among the visual arts, nonetheless, many graphic materials held by the museum are also of archival interest, and are accordingly mentioned at least in passing below.
        The archive of the museum itself (now within the Division of Manuscripts and Documentary Fonds), preserving its own administrative, scientific, and research records, was begun in 1805. In 1928 agreement was reached with the Administration of Central Archive (Tsentrarkhiv) for the Hermitage archive to remain permanently under the control of the museum (although some postrevolutionary records through 1937 were transferred to TsGALI SPb, as noted below). The Photograph Archive was begun in 1919 on the basis of a collection of photographs held by the Picture Gallery (Kartinnaia galereia), which was part of the Combined Hermitage Library. In 1925 the Photograph Archive became a separate subdivision.
        The Hermitage Library was founded in 1762 as the personal library of Empress Catherine II. In the 1860s and again after 1917, the majority of its manuscripts were transferred from the Hermitage and other imperial libraries to the Imperial Public Library, and now constitute the Hermitage Collection (Ermitazhnoe sobranie) in the Division of Manuscripts of the Russian National Library (RNB—G–15). A few of these manuscripts were subsequently returned to the Hermitage and are now held in the Cabinet of Rare Books (Kabinet redkoi knigi) and in other divisions of the museum. After the October Revolution the Hermitage Library acquired manuscript materials from the libraries of various imperial palaces and from a number of nationalized private collections in Petrograd, although some of these were then turned over to Antiquariat or sold abroad directly. Subsequently, there were new acquisitions from other sources. For example, in 1932 the library acquired some twenty Slavonic and Russian manuscripts from a Pomor'e Old Believer community. The manuscript materials were subsequently arranged as a separate fond within the Cabinet of Rare Books, which was opened in 1962 within what is now called the Central Scientific Library.
        The Division of West European Art was founded in 1764, but its present name dates to 1930. The Sector for Drawings was organized in 1805, but in 1930 became part of the Division of Graphic Art, and since 1948, it has been part of the Division of Western European Art. The Engravings Section was founded in 1805–1806 as the Cabinet of Prints and Engravings (Kabinet estampov). In 1920 it became the Division of Engravings (Otdelenie graviur), and from 1930 to 1948 was part of the Division of Graphic Art.
        The Division of the History of Russian Culture was established in 1941 on the basis of collections earlier held in the Historical Daily-Life Division (Istoriko-bytovoi otdel) of the State Russian Museum (H–236). Part of its Sector for Russian Culture in the First Third of the Eighteenth Century now occupies the A.D. Menshikov Palace (Dvorets A.D. Menshikova) (199034, St. Petersburg, Universitetskaia nab., 15; tel. 323-11-12; webpage:;, constructed in 1710–1714 for Prince Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov, the Governor-General of the city and Baltic lands under Peter I.
        The Division of the History and Culture of the Orient was established in 1920 as the Medieval Islamic Section. In 1921 it was renamed the Caucasian, Iranian, and Central Asian Section, and in 1926 given its present name.
        The Division of Numismatics developed out of the original coin collections acquired by Catherine II in 1771. Starting in 1786, it was known as the Mint Cabinet (Mintskabinet, from the German Münzkabinett), and from 1864, the Coins Section (Monetnoe otdelenie). Its present name dates from 1918.
        The Museum of Porcelain of the Imperial Porcelain Factory was established in 2003 as the Division of the State Hermitage on the basis of the historical collection of the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory Museum. The Porcelain Factory Museum was founded in 1844 under the Imperial Porcelain Factory, which in 1925 was renamed the Leningrad M.V. Lomonosov Porcelain Factory.

ABB ArcheoBiblioBase Archeo Biblio Base Patricia Kennedy Grimsted