About the Museum

    The Zoological Museum at Moscow University is the oldest and largest university museum in Russia, where visitors can get acquainted with the diversity of extant animals, and zoologists will find extensive research collections. It has originated from the Mineral Cabinet at Moscow University in the 1750s, and its foundation date as the Museum of Natural History is considered to be 1791. The exhibits of animals, plants, minerals, and coins were then gathered in it. In the mid-19th century, the Zoological Museum became separated from it. In 1902, the construction of a new building for our Museum was completed on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street to house its collections, employees, students, and exhibition, which was opened for visitors in 1911.



    The below Chronicle describes significant changes in the status and structure of our Museum, its relocations and repairs, changes in the forms of collections storage and recording, administrative and staff affairs, names of the heads and keepers/curators of the Museum and its divisions.

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    Museum Management

    An official status of the Head of the Cabinet/Museum of Natural History/Zoology requires a separate clarification.

    During the first decades of the existence of the Mineral (Natural) Cabinet at the Department of Natural History, the latter’s professor, who headed it, was simultaneously the head and keeper of the Cabinet. Since the late 1790s, some documents and reports have mentioned separately its caretaker or keeper.

    This general situation was fixed by the Charters of Moscow University of the first half and middle of the 19th century, according to which the Cabinet/Museum was "under jurisdiction" (the Charters’ formula) or "under supervision" (often in the annual reports) of the Department’s professor. The University staff establishment of that time instituted for the Cabinet/Museum only a "keeper" (or “curator”), sometimes referred to as a "caretaker" in the annual reports, and there was no separately designated full-time "head" or "director".

    At the same time, in some historical evidence relating to that period, the professor of the Department was occasionally referred to also as the "director of the Museum".

    Since 1884, according to the new Moscow University Charter, the Museum was entrusted to the "heading" by the professor (head) of the corresponding Department, who was referred to as the "head of the Museum" in the annual reports and other University documents.

    In the early 1930s, there appeared for the first time a permanent official designation of the head of the Zoological Museum as its director, not connected directly with any Department hierarchy.

    Practical matters of the Zoological Cabinet/Museum were conducted by its curator (caretaker); in 1837, a full-time staff position of curator was officially introduced. According to the new University Charter, Cabinet/Museum curator was subordinate to the head of the Zoology Department. However, this was not always the case: in the 1850s, K. Roullier (professor and head of the Zoology Department) did not interfere in the Zoological Cabinet practical matters, so its keeper, K. Renard was actually its actual full-fledged head (sometimes called "director").

    In the 1920s, several full-time curators were introduced to supervise collections of major groups of animals (invertebrates, insects, vertebrates) instead of the whole-museum curator, but they were officially transformed soon into researchers. However, the full-time position of the curator in chief (subordinate to the Museum director) was established in 1976 for the supervising exhibition and fine art collections.

    For the organization of research and economic activities, the positions of deputy director were established in 1932, one for research and another for administrative-economic affairs. The former was transformed into the secretary for research in 1945, and a reverse happened in 1954, while another "castling" was made in 1976: the position of deputy director for research was transformed into the position of secretary for research.


    During the first decades of the history of the Natural Cabinet/Museum (then at the Department), it was headed by the Head of the respective Department, first of Medicine and then of Natural History, while its maintenance was conducted by its caretaker. Position of the Cabinet/Museum Keeper was officially introduced in 1837. In 1924, it was liquidated, and the corresponding duties became performed by the heads of particular sections/departments. In 1976, the position of the curator in chief was introduced; the organization of curatorial work in the departments/sectors was continued to carry out by their heads.

    Kerstens Johann Christian was the head of the Department of Chemistry, and in 1758 the newly established Mineral Cabinet at the University was entrusted to his care.

    Matvey Ivanovich Afonin was a student of C. Linnaeus, headed the University Department of Natural History and the Mineral (Natural) Cabinet at it in 1770-1777; compiled its first inventory.

    Sibirsky Ivan Andreevich headed the Department of Natural History and Mineral (Natural) Cabinet in 1777-1783.

    Politkovsky Fedor Gerasimovich headed the Department and Cabinet of Natural History in 1784-1803 .

    Antonsky-Prokopovich Anton Antonovich, according to early historiographies, could participate in the curation of the Cabinet of Natural History in 1791–1803. However, his official position is not clear, because he headed the Department of Encyclopedia and Natural History during these years.

    Dwigubski Ivan Alekseevich, caretaker of the Cabinet of Natural History in 1798–1803.
    Richard F., the caretaker of the Cabinet /Museum of Natural History in 1803-1835.
    Roullier Karl Frantsevich, curator of the Museum of Natural History and the Zoological Cabinet in 1837-1845.
    Renard Karl Ivanovich, curator of the Museum of Natural History and the Zoological Cabinet in 1846-1862.
    Zenger Nikolai Karlovich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1863-1877.
    Zograf Nikolai Yurievich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1877-1889.
    Kulagin Nikolay Mikhailovich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1889-1894.
    Korchagin Alexander Nikolaevich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1895-1896.
    Kozhevnikov Grigory Alexandrovich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1897-1904.
    Zhitkov Boris Mikhailovich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1904.
    Shchelkanovtsev Yakov Pavlovich, curator of the Zoological Museum in 1905-1908.
    Plavilshchikov Nikolay Nikolaevich, curator of the Museum in 1919-1921.
    Becker Ernest Georgievich, curator of the Museum in 1921-1922.

    Research management

    For organization of the research in the Zoological Museum, a position of deputy director for research was introduced in 1937; in 1945, it was replaced by a position of secretary for research; in 1954, the position of deputy director for research was restored; in 1976, another "castling" was made and the deputy director was again transformed into the secretary for research.


    Kulagin Nikolay Mikhailovich

    Ognev Sergey Ivanovich
    Spangenberg Evgeny Pavlovich
    Heptner Vladimir Georgievich
    Shibanov Nikolay Vladimirovich
    Gladkov Nikolay Alekseevich
    Dementiev Georgy Petrovich


    Vatagin Vasily Alekseevich
    Kondakov Nikolay Nikolaevich
    Komarov Alexey Nikanorovich
    Sichkar Alexander Nikolaevich

    Patrons and donators

    Private collections at the time of the emergence of the museum
    Prokofy Akinfievich Demidov
    Pavel Grigoryevich Demidov
    Nikita Akinfievich Demidov
    Nikolay Nikitich Demidov
    Pavel Nikolaevich Demidov
    Anatoly Nikolaevich Demidov
    Grigory Ivanovich Fischer

    Other gifts to the museum in the initial period of its history
    Public organizations

    Bird Collections
    Nikolay Alekseevich Severtsov
    Boris Mikhailovich Zhitkov
    Sergey Alexandrovich Buturlin
    Grigory Ivanovich Polyakov
    Vladimir Vladimirovich Leonovich

    Butterfly Collections
    Anatoly Vasilyevich Tsvetaev
    Nikolai Nikolaevich Kondakov
    Oleg Zakharovich Grachev
    Mikhail Evgenievich Vinogradov
    Igor Valentinovich Kuznetsov
    Alexander Petrovich Generalov
    Vyacheslav Vasilyevich Nemtsev
    Viktor Pavlovich Solyanikov

    Malacological collections
    Valentina Rodionovna Hotovitskaya

    Rudolf Nikolaevich Burukovsky