The Russian History Museum opened in 1984. However, the museum collection was accumulated over the course of several decades prior to the museum’s official opening. Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY was founded in 1930, eventually becoming an important spiritual and cultural center for the Russian diaspora. Emigres from the former Russian Empire, displaced by revolution, civil war, and World War II, began to view the monastery as a trusted repository for the treasured artifacts and documents they brought with them from their homeland or had painstakingly collected abroad.
Holy Trinity Monastery Cathedral during construction, October 1948.
By the 1960s, a special room on the monastery campus was dedicated to the storage and display of such objects. Among the founding donors were various emigre organizations, such as the Association of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence, as well as individuals. Princess Vera Konstantinovna Romanova was one such individual, donating items relating to her father, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (grandson of Emperor Nicholas I), over the course of the 1970s and 1980s.
Princess Vera Konstantinovna Romanova and the 1909 Faberge presentation frame by workmaster Karl Armfeldt that was a gifted by her father, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, to her mother, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikievna on their 25th wedding anniversary.
Construction of an addition to the N. N. Alexandroff Building for the housing of a museum and archive began in 1980. Bishop Laurus (Skulra), the monastery’s abbot, spearheaded fundraising for the construction project and continued to solicit in-kind donations of museum and archival materials. The Russian History Museum opened to the public on June 17, 1984 with an exhibition of over 300 objects on display in the newly-constructed space. The collection continued to grow thanks to generous in-kind donations throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Russian History Museum, 1990s.
From 2007 on, the Russian History Museum began to partner with other museums to lend materials for special exhibitions nationally and internationally. Objects from the museum’s collection were loaned to exhibitions at the State Museum “Pavlovsk” (St. Petersburg, Russia), State Archive of the Russian Federation (Moscow, Russia), the St. Peter and Paul Fortress (St. Petersburg, Russia), the Russian House (Belgrade, Serbia), Solzhenitsyn House for the Russian Diaspora (Moscow, Russia), Hillwood Museum (Washington, DC), and the Museum of Russian Art (Minneapolis, MN).
At the same time, the museum’s storage space was upgraded to improve the collection’s housing and aid in the preservation of artifacts. The museum also embarked on a more rigorous schedule of objects conservation, bringing back to life many of the treasures in its collection, and enabling their display to the public.
Portrait of Emperor Nicholas I before and after restoration.
Redesigned Exhibition Space
In 2014, the museum’s exhibition space underwent a complete redesign. A new exhibition titled The Russian Word and Image: 400 Years of Books and Art, featuring highlights from the museum, library, and archival collections, opened to the public on May 18, 2014.
Russian History Museum after its reconstruction in 2014.
In 2018, the Russian History Museum began presenting special exhibitions that featured objects from its own collection, as well as loaned pieces from a dozen private collections. Last Days of the Last Tsar, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Nicholas II, has family, and attendants, was a landmark exhibition that brought together hundreds of unique artefacts and documents, including numerous possessions of the Imperial Family that were found after their murder. This was the first exhibition in North America dedicated exclusively to the final months of Nicholas II and his family, with many of the objects exhibited for the first time. The exhibition was also the first to publicly present recent findings of a DNA analysis conducted by the FBI that shed light upon the ongoing investigation into the identification of the remains of Nicholas II, his family, and their faithful attendants.
The museum continues to present compelling special exhibitions, drawing both on its own rich collections, as well as little-known private collections throughout the US.
Continued Commitment to Excellence and Sharing
The Russian History Museum is committed to preserving and sharing the incredible materials in its collection. In addition to presenting exhibitions, the museum offers engaging public programs, such as its Second Saturdays online lecture series.
The museum continues to collaborate with other museums by lending objects for temporary display, thus sharing its treasures with a broad audience. In recent years, artifacts from the museum have been on display in the Science Museum (London), Ikonenmuseum (Frankfurt), Manezh (Moscow), Hillwood Museum (Washington, DC), and the Museum of Russian Icons (Clinton, MA).
The collection continues to grow largely through the generosity of in-kind donors. The museum is grateful for the support of everyone who contributes to its continued success and enables our unique gem of a museum to thrive.