Vologda holds a place of its own in the history of Russia’s North and its artistic culture. Splendid collections of works of art were collected in the churches and monasteries and then in the local museums.
To appreciate the richness of local cultural traditions, a visit to the Vologda State Museum-Preserve is a “must”.
The Museum has nine branches, plus archives and workshops, providing exact and detailed documentation of various aspects of life in the Vologda Oblast.
The Vologda State Museum-Preserve is one of the most comprehensive and significant exhibitions of Russian art. As of January 1, 2012 more than 461473 items are exposed in the museum halls. The unique part of the fund is the collection of early Russian painting.
Earlier works of Russian art including 4000 masterpieces are the unique part of the fund of the Vologda State Museum-Preserve. This presentation features a selection of the greatest masterpieces of Russian art from the 14th century to the present. This exhibition includes such icons as the Virgin Podkubenskaya (14th century), the Zyryanskaya Old Testament Trinity (14th century), and St. Dmitrius Prilutsky (16th century). They provide a glimpse into the remarkable culture of Russia.
The icon of the Virgin Podkubenskaya is of great interest. The icon was badly damaged but the early 14th century painting has survived on the central part.
Another icon, the Zyryanskaya Old Testament Trinity was brought to Vologda early in the 19th century. The icon of St. Dmitrius Prilutsky is one of the most perfect of all the icons with borders scenes.
The extent of penetration of Moscow art into the Vologda region in the first half of the 16th century can be judged from the remarkable icon – St.John the Baptist. The icon repeats the analogous icon from the Deesis Range in the Ferapont monastery.
The collection of Russian wooden church sculptures of the Vologda Museum numbers 966 units. The majority of creations are eminent examples of Old Russian plastic arts. The collection presents various kinds of plastic arts - either small carved icons, crosses and folding icons low relief or monumental high reliefs and examples of the round.
Carved icons and sculptured images of Saints, although they were rarer than painted icons, were loved and worshipped in Russia, especially among little people. The attitude of the churchdom towards such icons was rather careful for they were considered to be connected with paganism and influenced by the Catholic world.
Such wooden sculptures of the 16th century as St. George and the Dragon and St. Paraskeva Pyatnitsa give a good idea of the early Russian ecclesiastical plastic art.
Many of the Vologda crosses are also of great historical and artistic importance.
The collection of textiles numbers about 11070 exhibits. It is based on various items used for the decoration of numerous ceremonies and official tsars’ everyday life in the XVI-XVII centuries: royal dress, various items of everyday use and interior, banners, ceremonial horse-clothes and many others.
Among the monuments of Old Russian secular dress that are of special interest there are things connected with the name of Russian Tsar - Emperor Peter the Great.
The collection of textiles also includes items of peasants’ dress, items of secular and cultic purpose, and various secular dress accessories. All the items are made of patterned clothes of different kinds. The collection’s chronological frames cover the period from the 18th to the 21st century.
The Vologda Kremlin also houses a famous collection of lacework. It has a collection of over 4000 items crafted by Vologda master lace-makers. Amongst the collection is gold lace from the 17th and 18th centuries, which are the oldest items on exhibition. One of the halls of the museum showcases Vologda bobbin lacework. Such items are often more than 3 metres (10 feet) in length.
Numerous cultic items from local cathedrals and vestries of the largest Vologda’s monasteries became integrated in the museum collection.
On display there are numerous mantles, liturgical covers, trappings for the throne and altar stand, shrouds, palls, made of patterned textiles and adorned with pictorial and decorative embroidery.
The collection of ceramics and glass numbers about 4000 items including the wide spectrum of material modifications - terracotta, kinds of porcelain, glass (either transparent colourless or coloured), clay toys, articles with mosaics and Dutch tiles.
The most part of the collection are ceramics, first of all, Dutch tiles. It includes items made in the period of XVII-XX centuries. These masterpieces are unique monuments of particular artistic value.
The basis of the collection is presented by potter's centres of the Vologda Region involved in creating works in clay. On display there are also ceramic artworks created by local modern craftsmen - T. Gorbatova, S. Lopatenko, N. Mishentseva, V.Kholshchagin. In this section of the museum one can explore hand-building techniques, basic glazing methods and the usage of the wheel.
The glass collection features works of art from XVIII century to contemporary times. The brightest artwork is a gorgeous goblet with the arms of the Prince Alexander Menshikov engraved upon it. Exhibits made of opal glass - vases, glasses, decanters, ornamental flowerpots and others are also on display. Easter eggs made of coloured crystal, opal glass and coloured glass are of the most magnificent museum items.
The Vologda Museum’s collection of paintings is of big historical and cultural value. It numbers over 14000 exhibits. The museum funds include over 200 portraits by Russian artists of XVII-XX centuries.
Among the pictures one should mark high artistic qualities of “The portrait of a Vologda guest Gavrila Martynovich Fetiyev” (XVII century) and portraits painted by representatives of the local art school (P. Lopotov, N. Katin, P. Tyurin, A. Yagodnikov).
This section of the collection presents the backbone line of the development and life of ceremonial representative portraits in the Russian culture of the XVII-XIX centuries.
The collection of graphics is also a part of the art genre collection. The collection contains works collected over several years. They all had a good eye for the fact that graphics is a broad field, comprising drawing, etching, various printing forms and even combined techniques.
In the 1970s Vologda became a centre of the Russian graphic arts, its painters displayed their works in Moscow and abroad. Original and distinctive are the graphic works of the Burmagins. In their woodcuts the painters put high workmanship, and their productions acquired the value of genuine art.
The funds of the Vologda Museum-Preserve also contain an ethnographic collection of various articles made of wood. The heart of the collection of wooden articles is comprised of the collections of children's toys, furniture, carved wood distaffs, household utensils and other items. All in all the collection amounts to 10000 units. The collection now covers all forms of folk art, including both domestic peasant works and art handicraft. Academic expeditions to various parts of the Vologda Oblast played an important role in forming the collection.
The museum-preserve collection of metal art numbers over 10000 units including numerous civil and church valuables and shows the diversity of art traditions, form uniqueness and presentation skills of masters. The historically formed complex embraces the period from XVII century till nowadays.
At the exposition one can equally see smithcraft objects: doors, shutters, window bars, numerous hardware units, sophisticated door locks, keys, decorated hinges and cover plates as well as various tools.
The unique collection of tower clock mechanisms of XVIII – XIX centuries is of great interest. The tower clock mechanisms created by Russian and foreign masters are on display in the Vologda museum-preserve.
The collection of jewelry works is of great historical value in the Vologda Museum. It includes jewelry works of XV to XXI centuries, made basically of precious metals, stones, and pearls. The collection with its variety and excellent artistic merits gives an opportunity to trace the development of the Russian jewelry art. It helps to learn different types of articles and ways of adorning items made of precious metals, to trace the stylistic evolution of jewelry works. A lot of the collection monuments are memorial, linked to eminent statesmen, historical figures and important historical events.
The jewelry art is represented with creations by masters of Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Kostroma and local artistic centres from Vologda and Veliky Ustyug showing the evolution of art styles from Baroque to Modern.
The collection also comprises works by artists that represent the development tendencies of Swidish, German and Dutch jewelry art.
Nowadays, the numismatics and bonistics collection of the Vologda State Museum-Preserve contains 95000 exhibits. Its main part are Russian and foreign coins, paper currency and related items from Antique to modern ones. Here are Old Russian silver and copper coins, Russian coins of the XV-XX centuries.
With more than a total of 95000 noteworthy coins and medallions on display, the museum is a magnet for admirers of the art of minting.
The most significant holdings within the numismatic collection include: coins from ancient Rome, byzantine coins from the Middle Ages, and coins from Arab Muslim Caliphate.
The collection of Russian and foreign paper money and metal stamps of the XIV-XX centuries is also of great interest. It comprises only the main types and basic fields of the bonds’ use.
The numismatic collection of Vologda’s museum acquired its leading status primarily through the comprehensiveness of the series in its possession, as well as through a significant number of extremely rare items.
Archaeology collection is the largest in the Vologda State Museum-Preserve and numbers 155000 exhibits.
The things found on the territory of the Vologda Oblast belong to various historical epochs - from the palaeolith to historic objects dating to the Middle Ages. The oldest ones are bronze axes.
These are adornments and fragments of earthenware presenting slipware produced in the Vologda Region.
A large percent of finds are articles of smithcraft. These are various instruments, houseware utensils and military equipment. The last segment should be mentioned particularly as it is rather large in the archaeological collection.
Nowadays, the Vologda Museum preserves a collection of manuscript and early printed books. All of them are unique. A lot of manuscripts, also vellums, are adorned with miniatures, colourful figured initials and ornamental miniatures. The oldest monument of the collection is the manuscript Aprakos Gospel (end of the XIII century-first quarter of the XIV century).
The main part of the collection is a selection of early printed books in the Cyrillic script. The majority of books in the collection are those printed at the Moscow printing court. It also includes editions of printing-houses of Vilno and foreign printing-houses. The books are illustrated with gravures, and generously adorned with an engraved ornament. In some cases the ornament is bedizened freehand with paints and gold. Because of the repertoire of the printing-houses, the majority of editions are church books, e.g. Gospels, Lectionaries, Psalteriums, Missals, Hour-Books and so on and so forth. The latest exemplars are printed books of the early XX century.
There are also about 3000 in the collection of documents of pre-revolutianary times. The oldest document is the Charter of the Metropolitan Simon sent to Kornily Komelsky (1501).
The Vologda State Museum-Preserve boasts a collection of china ware and delftware that numbers 1252 exhibits. The main part of the collection was formed in 1924-1925 and brought from the Central storage of the State museum fund and from former farmsteads of noble families.
The chronological frames of the collection are rather wide, because the Vologda State Museum-Preserve possesses several artworks created in Germany, England, France, Austria, Denmark, Holland and also Russian porcelain.
The collection of photo documents of the Vologda Museum numbers 60672 photographs, postcards, negatives and photo-gravures that tell the visitors about the history, culture and political life of the Vologda Region from the XIX century to our days. Most part of the collection is in black and white.
The collection also includes gramophone records dating from the early XX century.
The museum funds include also a collection of natural science. Its mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of Vologda’s biological diversity through collections, research, education, and exhibits; and to inspire the people of our region to respect the environment and to preserve it. Here are can see species of animals, plants and fungi of Vologda’s natural world, some of them are are and endangered and are included into the Red Data Book of the Vologda Oblast.