Vologda State Museum-Preserve, one of the largest museums of Russia's North marks the 135th anniversary of its foundation.
The Vologda State Museum-Preserve of History, Architecture and Decorative Arts is situated in the historical centre of the city - the Vologda Kremlin that consists of buildings constructed during four centuries (XVI- XIX).
The Vologda State museum-preserve is a scientific - exploring and educational organisation, state storage of artistic, historical, architectural memorials of material and spiritual culture and as well as memorials of nature. The museum fund includes 461 473 items. The most valuable collections are the collection of Russian Ancient Art (icons), sculpture, numismatics, Old Russian books and others. The museum is annually visited by 200 thousand people. More than 30 expositions on various topics are created every year; international and all-Russian scientific conferences, practical seminars are held in the museum.
The displays of the Museum include the works of Old Russian artists, manuscripts, handicrafts, commodities, coins, weapon, armour, archaeological finds. The best exhibits were displayed in Great Britain, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Finland and Hungary.
The most ancient stone building of the city, the Sofia Cathedral, is situated on the bank of Vologda River, eastwards from the territory of the former bishop courtyard enclosed with high stronghold walls. Built in 1565-70, it is an excellent example of mid 17th-century church architecture based on Aristotle Fioravanty's Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin.
In 1622 opposite to the cathedral the wooden bell tower with a hipped-roof, covered by "scales", was constructed. In the middle of 17th century instead of the wooden cathedral bell tower the new stone one, also with a hipped-roof, was built. In 1870 under the project of architect Schildkneckt the ancient bell tower, which had existed for 220 years, was rebuilt in the false gothic stile.
Up to the middle of 17th century all the constructions of Vologda bishop courtyard were entirely wooden. But already then there were located all the necessary for an administrative center premises - cells, judicial log hut, cellars, stables, etc. In the middle of the 17th century in the bishop courtyard, at its eastern wall appeared the first stone building - the two-storied cells with an attic storey. It was the Economical building.
The second in time stone building of the court was the large three-storied Simon building constructed under Bishop Simon in 1670. It houses various expositions dedicated to the region’s history and nature, also thematic exhibitions and repository collections. Impressive colorful and realistic nature dioramas and bio groups tell about the diversity and endangered species of Vologda flora and fauna.
In the eastern part of this building the small Christmas church was situated, and later there was built the nicely adorned Cross chamber, where archbishop received their especially noble visitors, and which Peter the Great visited many times. In Simon building the bishop's chamber and cells for servants were placed.
In 1671 - 1672 during the terrible famine in Vologda the large stone walls with gun-slots, several gates and four towers were constructed around the courtyard. They were built almost without money, as the starving people worked for the sole bread.
In 1680 above the gates of the east wall, directly opposite to the Sofia Cathedral, the small stone Exaltation church was built. From the west to Simon building adjoined another three-storied building which received a title of Gabriel building.
In the history section the displayed monuments of material and spiritual culture reveal the story of Vologda Region from the old days till the second half of the 19th century. Among the exhibits one can find archeological materials of the Stone Age and the Middle Ages, handicrafts, monuments, telling about Peter the Great’s policies, about the citizens who took part in the war of 1812. The main agricultural industries – flax cultivation and butter manufacturing – are also presented.
The Old Russian Art is represented by about 150 pieces of iconography, pictorial embroidery, indoor and wooden sculpture. One of the oldest works, a monument to 14th century, “Our Lady Tolgskaya (Podkybenskaya)” is among the exhibits.
The Vologda State Museum-Preserve of History, Architecture and Decorative Arts is not a only museum. This is a sort of cultural centre of the city. It became home to a theatrical festival "Voices of History", which is held every two years. Most performances of this festival are staged in the open air in the historical setting of the Vologda Kremlin. Many international conferences and seminars are held here too.