The Museum of Nature is a product of scientific cooperation of the Buryat United Museum and the Museum Studies Department of the Russian Federation Culture Research Institute (Moscow). Opening of the museum on July 12, 1983, was a great event of the Republic’s cultural life timed to the 60th anniversary of its formation.
The main theme of the museum is “Nature and Man”. The original structure and good architectural and artistic composition full of much scientific information on the profile disciplines give the museum its own image and special colouring of the unique Zabaikalye nature.
The museum was born in the nature department of the M.N. Khangalov Local History Museum founded in 1923. The first exhibits were inherited from a small school museum and the economic exhibition organized to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Republic of Buryatia (1933). Originally it was located in the same building as the local history museum at 29, Profsoyuznaya Street. In 1947 the department was moved to the first floor of Holy Virgin Hodigitria Cathedral where it was placed until 1975.
The originators of the exposition were enthusiastic local historians V.A. Kolchuguna, Z.N. Yakovleva, Ed.P. Pilman.
Passionate nature lovers Eduard Pilman and his sons Herald and Eric made great contribution in the formation of the first collection, especially the zoological one. They were from Baltic States, experienced laboratory assistants, well-prepared taxidermists. Their work is still the most valuable exposition and scientific material in the museum.
A great role was played by the initiative of scientists, local historians and private persons who gave the museum their personal collections and hunting trophies as personal gifts.
The collections of M.G. Bakutin, I.S. Kotov and I.V. Izmailov are in the museum stock now. They were collected at Lake Baikal, the Vitim plateau and the southern parts of the republic as results of long-term research, from 1930 to 1967.
There are botanical collections of less known authors – Mikhailov, Novaya Bryan (1912-1913), S.L. Tikhonov, the Ashinsky district of the Buryat-Mongol Autonomous Republic (1932), F. Kobylkina, Chita environs (1941).
The active local historian T.D. Kamchatova-Voronova had been working for the nature department for many years, she gave the museum 500 herbaria collected in 1960-1063 around Ulan Ude.
Geological and paleontological collection made up a smaller part of the museum. They were mostly represented by mineral samples, and by single miscellaneous parts of the skeletons of great fossilized animals.
For a long time Z.N. Yakovleva had been the head of the department. She worked much educating mass visitors; she also collected materials to supply the stock with them. In the 70’ies the total number of exhibits was about 3 thousand.
The nature department had no depositary. The collection was partly in the sheds and other little adapted places. The main part of zoological things (stuffed birds and animals) was exhibited in the museum.
Absence of financing didn’t give the opportunity to replenish the funds regularly, to organize expeditions, to improve the scientific and research activity of the department. And the exposition, once created, could stand as it was, carrying out its function to some extent.
Until recently the established structure of the departments and nature museums did not cause any doubts. The structure was based on the thematic review of natural components with the following demonstration of the synthetic part – landscape complexes.
“In mid-70’ies aggravation of ecological situation revealed the necessity of promoting the newest achievements in sciences. At the same time great demands were made of originality and uniqueness of museum expositions of all profiles including natural ones!” (Iksanova, Soustin, 1979).
The nature department exposition made up according to the typical thematic structure did not answer the modern requirements in its scientific contents and outdated equipment.
On the other hand, creating a new scientific exposition in Buryatia was caused by the urgency of nature protection problem and by resolutions of the former USSR government and Communist party on Lake Baikal protection. At that time museums tended to proceed along the path of centralization and profiled expositions.
In Buryatia it was decided to make up a museum of nature instead of a department. The Ministry of culture gave it separate premises in the building of the former drama theatre which is a historic and architectural monument of the early 20th century. The theatre building needed capital repairs. At the same time the Ministry of Culture asked the Russian Federation Culture Research Institute for scientific and methodological help in organizing the museum. Cooperation between the two institutions was based on legislation.
The objective of the scientific cooperation was to make the new museum an experimental base of the Culture Research Institute in the field of scientific museum management studies.
I.V. Iksanova, the senior research worker of Culture Research Institute, was appointed scientific consultant and exposition manager, and A.S. Soustin, the same institute worker, was charged with the architectural and artistic solution.
The starting stage of exposition working out was evaluating of the premises, the stock, local studies literature and looking for typical natural landscapes. As a result the scientific concept of the exposition, its thematic structure and the general architectural solution were completed in 1976.
The main idea of the concept was to show nature with its correlations in ecological and economic aspects. The museum foundation was to be the structure of Buryatia natural complexes singled out in the basis of their geomorphologic and biocenotic features (V.S. Preobrazhensky, 1953) – “The East Sayan”, “The Stanovoye Plateau”, “The Selenga Upland”, “Pribaikalye”, “lake Baikal”.
The theme “Geology and Minerals, the Prospects of Their Usage” is singled out because it has a very important economic meaning for the republic.
Such theoretic notions as “Biospheric and Biocenose Teaching” are included in the museum exposition for the first time in the museum practice; they are necessary as preliminary information for the further purposeful perception of the landscape exposition. The problems of nature protection and rational nature usage are included in all the sections of the exposition.
But there is a certain difficulty in organizing a principally new museum based on the landscape principle with all the ecological interrelations. What was the difficulty of the museum solution of the ecological composition?
First of all:
- lack of information and scientific data about the region and literature on complex ecological research;
- no elaborated theoretic museum criteria of constructing landscape biocenose compositions with due regard for the modern social demand;
- lack of exhibits or their complete absence in some depositary groups;
- the research workers are not prepared for solving the above mentioned tasks.
That’s why the problem of attracting broad scientific community to the work of the nature museum has become very serious. Only in this case a profound scientific landscape exposition could be made and the system of educational work could be elaborated.
On March 26, 1976 a meeting was held by the Science department of the Communist Party Regional Committee. The meeting approved the proposed structure of the future museum and recommended the members of the Academic Council. As a result the members of the Nature Museum Academic Council were appointed by the Instruction of the Buryat ASSR Council of Ministers of April 19, 1976 # 300-p, their main duties were enumerated. The Council members were leading specialists in biology from academic and educational institutions of Ulan Ude.
Taking into consideration the amount of the forthcoming preliminary work (research work and collecting), the museum initiated scientific cooperation and agreements were made with the leading institutes and departments of the Buryat Branch SB of the former USSR Academy of Sciences, Buryat complex research department of the SB of the All-Union Agricultural Research Institute and Banzarov Buryat State Pedagogical Institute. 8 agreements were made at the starting stage.
The agreement programmes included both working out theoretical foundations of ecosystems, the basics of the landscape exposition and collecting geological, soil, botanical and zoological materials, their scientific descriptions, authorized maps, schemes, block-diagrams, reports on expositions, etc.
In the process of the preliminary work broad relations were established with many academic institutions of Irkutsk, Earth’s Crust Institute, Geography Institute of Siberia and Far East, Biology Institute, the SB RAS Limnological Institute. The specialists of these institutions presented their scientific works, literature, and exhibits and gave consultations on the profile disciplines.
It is necessary to distinguish the role of the Academic Council organized for the period of the museum creation. All the research and materials collecting plans were made in accordance with the programmes and tasks worked out beforehand and approved by the museum Academic Council. The panel of specialists received collections after completing the research work. The museum got fresh theoretical information and also different things, the original research results.
At the same time the research institutions had an opportunity to popularize their achievements through the museum exposition and introduce them into practice.
During the period of organizing the museum the staff and their qualification played the determinant role. “A museum worker not only has to have basic biological or geographic knowledge, but also have methodological knowledge in the field of museum management.
He should understand and see his scientific, expositional and educational objectives through the possibility to solve them with the help of a museum thing, the original” (I. Iksanova, N. Pavlova, 1983).
The administration of the museum association paid much attention to preparing the staff. The museum workers went to practise to the central museums of such cities as Moscow, Leningrad, Riga, Tallinn, Kiev, Sverdlovsk, Irkutsk and Yaroslavl. They studied not only the museum management theory, but also practical skills in making three-dimensional materials, methods of exhibits storing and conservation.
In-service preparation was also done at the museum seminars which were held by the leading museum management workers invited from other cities, by experienced workers and scientists.
Together with preparation for the exposition great construction and repair work was being done, the workshop for making stuffed animals and photo laboratory were being equipped and the museum furniture was being made.
While preparing the exposition the principally important thing was cooperation of the exposition worker and the artist, to work out the unified solution of the fore-project at the starting stage. Such an approach is considered to be more correct than attracting an artist after the completion of the thematic and expositional plan, which used to be the long-term practice. The architectural and artistic solution of the museum exposition was discussed on different levels in Moscow and Ulan Ude. Three groups of artists worked over it for different reasons. But the final variant was made by the Moscow artists Yu.A. Rosinsky and A.S. Mistyukov. The remains of the original projects are the paleontological wall in Hall 2 (V. Zoriktuyev) and the ramp in Hall 5 (A.S. Soustin).
The exposition assembling began in the beginning of 1983. An additional group of artists and model makers was invited from Moscow – V.I. Bakashov, A. Kochanov and A.N. Bolgov.
The museum workers worked out the thematic and exposition plans and assembly lists. The participants of the exposition making were A.S. Piskunov, the first museum director, V.B. Khanduyeva, Ye.Ts. Imykhelova, T.S. Lamatkhanova and O.A. Pyzhyanova. All of them are the authors of big sections and contributed greatly in exposition making and the store collecting; they organized expeditions for collecting natural objects, scientific information, for taking pictures of landscapes, industrial and agricultural objects in the republic and beyond its borders.
By the end of exposition completing about 12 thousand museum objects were in the store of the museum as a result of agreements and own collecting activities. It is important to underline that while organizing the museum the workers acquired a considerable amount of knowledge and professionalism in museum management. The artistic image of the exposition was made by the photographers of the museum association – G.Ya. Yeger, S.A. Sidorychev and Ye.A. Yelayev.
The backgrounds for dioramas were painted by honoured workers of Buryatia – E.R. Ayusheyev, T.M. Rud, M.Z. Oleinikov and Dulbeyev.
The following scientists gave scientific consultations and rendered practical help:
geologists – D.B. Bazarov, I.M. Borisenko
soil scientists – Ts.Kh. Tsybzhitov, Yu.N. Kokorin
botanists – K.M. Bogdanova, L.K. Bardonova, A.N. Bukholtsev, T.G. Boikov, T.A. Surkova, P.I. Petrovich
zoologists – G.M. Khabayeva, T.K. Imekhenova, Ts.Z. Dorzhiyev, V.G. Yegorov
limnologists – V.I. Galkina (Irkutsk)
seismologists – V.P. Solonenko (Irkutsk)
paleontologists – N.P. Kalmykov, L.N. Ivaneyev, S.M. Popova (Irkutsk)
The museum workers are very grateful to their first teacher, who taught them the basics of museum work, I.V. Iksanova (Moscow)
The museum could not have lived without support of the Government of Buryatia, the Ministry of Culture in the person of A.A. Badiyev, S.V. Angapov, A.M. Gerstein, the administration of the museum association N.V. Kim, N.V. Komissarova who had put much effort and energy into financing and organizing the museum in general.
13 years have passed since the opening of the museum. It has become the centre of ecological education. It is very popular with social institutions and schools of the city and the republic.
The experimental work of the museum is going on. Many problems set in the experimental programme, need further reviewing and approbation, but the main result has been achieved. The museum has proved its vitality and necessity in that difficult social, political and economic situation.
The final stage of the experiment presupposes partial review of the structure and step-by-step re-exposition on its basis.
Ecological museum should help people understand the most difficult problem of the modern civilization – the problem of relations of man and nature with due regard for sharp contradictions between the natural state of our planet and the society needs.