The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Kunstkamera) selected more than 40 items from its collections for display at a large-scale exhibition on the culture and climate of the Arctic at the British Museum.As the staff of the St. Petersburg Museum told reporters, some exhibits will be shown for the first time outside of Russia.

In late May, the British Museum will open a large exhibition project, “The Arctic: Culture and Climate,” dedicated to the history of the Arctic and the traditional cultures of the peoples living in this region, as well as the problems of global climate change on the planet. The exhibition will last till the end of August.

“The British Museum invited us to participate in this interesting exhibition. This is useful for us, if only because it is really not only a representation of the Kunstkamera items on the world museum stage, but the topic itself is very interesting, because warming and the Arctic are of concern to us (one of the leading scientific topics). We responded with interest, wrote articles to the catalog, now we send exhibits and accompany all this with our comments and opinions, including those showing that warming and, in general, all kinds of fluctuations are not new to the Arctic. For example, the Nenets have a legend that every two thousand years a flood comes, it covers the earth, and people die, then they appear again and again live two thousand years,” Kunstkamera director Andrei Golovnev told reporters, speaking about the project together with the British Museum.

Works of art from Siberia

In the Kunstkamera funds, 43 objects were selected for the exhibition, including shamanistic hats, caftans, tambourines and masks, obtained from numerous Siberian expeditions of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, as well as archaeological finds from the Ust-Poluy settlement on the Yamal Peninsula, which are about two thousand years old. Speaking about the latter, Stanislav Belsky, a senior researcher at the Archeology Department of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to reporters that they belong to the collection of the Leningrad archaeologist Vasily Adrianov, compiled in the 30s of the XX century on the territory of modern Salekhard.

Among the items in the collection, Belsky called a whale bone chest plate, which was intended to protect during the battle, as “a completely unique thing that has no analogues.” According to him, scientists do not know exactly to which people the item belonged. “We don’t know who they were and what language they spoke, <...> but they were some ancestors of modern Khanty, Mansi,” he added.

About the Museum

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences is one of the largest and oldest ethnographic museums in the world, with collections of over 1.2 million items. It is the successor to the first Russian state public museum, the famous Kunstkamera, founded by Peter the Great in 1714. The Museum is considered one of the main centers for the study of the peoples of the Arctic and Siberia. Museum researchers in their field expeditions to Yakutia, Chukotka, the Yamal Peninsula and the Kola Peninsula as ethnographers and anthropologists record changes in the traditional ways of life of small indigenous peoples, including those related to global warming.