The history of foundation and development of the museum is typical in many respects and can be illustration of the transformation of religious ensembles and monuments into museum. Officially the museum was founded under the Soviet power in 1924 but long prehistory preceded it. In 1906-1908 hieromonk Anthony (A.A. Alexandrov) made an attempt to organize the museum in the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. But he didn’t get encouragement from the local authorities of the monastery. Since 1917 to 1921 the materials of State Archives evacuated from Petrograd were kept in the monastery. In 1921 the restoration began in the monastery. Scientists – archivists, architects, restorers, representatives of the local authorities and the public of the town made a lot of attempts to organize the museum of old relics and monuments in Kirillov but they were crowned with success only at the end of 1924.
At first the museum in Kirillov was a branch of the Cherepovetsky district museum of a province. In 1926 the museum began functioning under the jurisdiction of the Central Authority of research institutions, and became independent. The Cherepovetsky district museum of a province had to perform the duties of a methodical control and to render practical help in the making of his young fellow. In this time there were apartments, children’s home, storehouses with grains, salt, fire wood, hay on the territory of the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery.
First director – museum head Alexander Alexandrovitch Kholmovsky registered the collections, revealed objects from the property of churches, monasteries, mansions. First permanent exposition was opened in 1929. It consisted of seven sections and gave an idea of colonization of this land, and history of the monastery. The exposition was opened the hole year round. The architectural monuments were opened in summer. They collected payment only for excursions. By this time the strategic orientation of the museum development was considered as architectural, historical, art. It corresponded to the large number of the architectural monuments and the structure of the museum collections.
But the true the natural development of the museum was interrupted. Since 1930 the museum financing were dramatically cut down, it led to staff reduction, curtailment of research and exhibition work. Subordination of the museum changed with conversion to the financing from local budget. Since 1930 the museum was under the authority of the Kirillovsky department of people’s education. The transition to the local living gave an ample opportunity to Party and Soviet bodies to meddle actively in museum life. The study of local lore, demonstration of achievements of Socialist construction became principal direction in museum work, but it’s not corresponded to the nature of monuments, to the content of collections.
The process of the reorganization into the museum of local lore delayed till 1935. In this time the content of the museum exposition, the approaches to the acquisition the fund collections of museum were changed, the expedition was turned into an inspection of kolkhozes and sovkoses. The new historical exposition created in 1934 was of the ideological character. It exposed an essence of the monastery – feudal. In two years they added materials about mode of time of serfdom to the exposition by decision of the Bureau of the CPSU District Committee. Besides permanent exposition they opened inside of the fortress of the XVII century where they showed the interiors of cells where prisoners were kept in the second half of the 18th century.
They created a visitor’s room with a set of books of local lore in the museum in order to receive information. There was one employee of the museum there, he answered the visitor’s questions and registered the number and the social origin of the visitors. Thus in 1934 124 workers, 548 collective farmers, 754 employees, 974 schoolchildren visited the museum.
In 1937 they began to build a department of nature in the museum, and in 1938, under persistent pressure of local authorities, an anti-religious exhibition appeared in the church of St. Cyril. Activity of the museum was under hard control from the side of party and soviet organs. In a district newspaper the articles periodically appeared about a work of the museum, at times they contained sharp and biased criticism. Employees of the museum were exposed to repression.
However, in spite of political storms, affecting the Kirillov museum, work in it proceeded in every directions. Under the direction of architect V.V. Danilov restoration works were actively conducted. By efforts of Kirillov restorers the foundation was recovered, renovation of walls was produced, a roof was recovered on the Small Hospital.
In 1920 they made wooden buttresses for support of walls, going along Lake Siverskoye. In the Holy Gates they installed wooden grates for defense of painting. The large volume of work was executed in the Svitochnaya tower. Next years vaults were recovered in the Large Hospital, a roof was replaced. In 1936-1939 measurements of many monuments were conducted, wooden porches outside of wall at the Kazanskaya tower were took away, foundations of wall of the 17th century were strengthened between the Moscow and Kosaya towers.
Work pace could be higher, but the amount of financing was low, there were problems with building materials supplies. Drying oil, for example, was supplied from Leningrad. Simultaneously with architectural restoration they restored the monumental and tempera painting. The museum and its employees took an active part in archaeological excavations on the territory of Kirillovsky district (neolithic site on the small island of Lake Siverskoye, pile settlement on the river of Modlona) and on the territory of the museum – search of the Armoury.
The change of type of the museum negatively affected on an attitude of higher organizations and local authorities toward collections of museum. In 30-e years they repeatedly confiscated silverware, church fabrics, icons from the museum. Icons, engravings were taken out for addition to collections of other museums, mainly capital. In 1933 a considerable part of archive of monastery was taken out to Leningrad. Thus an account went not to the folios and separate manuscripts, but to the weight. In all the inspector of the Leningrad regional archival management B.M. Sosnov «took out 53 boxes of the archival manuscripts» by full weight of 4551 kg. In a regional museum they decided questions about a write-off «non-core materials». In August, 1932 icons from the iconostasis of the church of Presentation of the Virgin to the temple, a part of the other property of Kirillo-Belozersky, Ferapontov, Goritsky monasteries were discarded. As a rule, such questions were decided by the experts of leading museums or representatives of protection of monuments. Fortunately the employees of the museum didn’t hasten execute many such instructions, that this make it possible to save a number of valuable monuments to our days.
In days of Great Patriotic war the museum was not closed although the number of staff was reduced. Some of them did not return from the battle-fields. In autumn of 1941 the museum took charge of the exhibits evacuated from Novgorod. In 1942 at the approach of a front-line to the border of the Vologda region the museum began to prepare to a partial evacuation.
The icons of 15th century from the iconostasis of the Assomption cathedral were packed up and prepared for evacuation. Weapon, bells were buried in the Large Hospital. In December, 1941 it was necessary to take away the permanent exhibition of the museum, because there was a repair shop of airplane engines in its place, in a vast refectory chamber; a number of buildings of museum was occupied by military bodies. In 1943 in the museum the restoration work was renewed. The government delegation developed recommendations on the improvement of protection of monuments in war-time. However, the process of restoration interrupted by war gained strength slowly. Only to 1948 the museum began to draw means, supplied on these purposes.
The first post-war years were difficult in all history of the museum. The staff list of 1946 included only director and three watches, thus one of them must work in Ferapontovo. In 1948 they began to work on a renewal of departments of history and nature. New exhibitions were built slowly, because there were not enough experienced research workers in the museum. In addition a director and research workers of the museum constantly took part in propagandistic events.
In 1953 a group of architects of Central research restoration workshop arrived in Kirillov. They mapped out top priority tasks on the rescue of monuments, being in the emergency state, and laid down the foundations of research and restoration works. In 1957 they created an area of restoration work in Kirillov belonging to the Vologda research restoration workshop. The restores began to help the monuments of the Kirillo-Belozersky and Ferapontov monastery out the emergency situation. The Moscow architect Sergey Podiapolski managed this process for a long time.
Working out the totals of the activity of the museum in 1920-1950, it should be noted that in spite of considerable deviations from the natural way of development, especially in a period 1932-1955, the museum was succeeded due to museum workers – enthusiasts not only in protection but in recovering in part of invaluable artistic and architectural monuments of Kirillo-Belozersky monastery. It was succeeded to fill up the fund collections of museum. Complex expeditions in Vashkinsky, Belozersky, Vologodsky, Vozhegodsky districts of the Vologda region allowed to expose and purchase many works of folk art. In 1958 the museum was marked a diploma for successful work in the period of All-Russian review of cultural institutions.
In December, 1955, Ministry of culture decided to change status of a regional museum in Kirillov, because structure and tasks of the museum were in contravention of the value of architectural ensembles and composition of museum collections. However, the process of transformation of regional museum in historical and art delayed on years. The staff of the museum was not ready to the decision of new tasks.
Only from middle 1960 systematic restoration of icon-painting began in the museum, and the first display of the Old Russian art appeared in 1968. Art historians appeared in the staff of the museum, they began to complete a collection of folk art of Beloozero. Positive changes in life of museum were fastened by Decision of Council of Ministers in 1968 about the increase of status of museum and creation of Kirillo-Belozersky historical-architectural and art museum-reserve.
Next year Statute about the museum-reserve was confirmed by a governmental decision. Besides the monuments of Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, the architectural ensembles of Ferapontov and Goritsky monasteries were assigned to the museum with a purpose of study, protection and control the restoration works.
This document provided a large complex of works: creation of restricted areas, measures of a beautification of the town of Kirillov, asphalt road building, arrangement of foreshore of Lake Siverskoye, withdrawal bases and storehouses from territories, joining to the museum.
In spite of realization of a part of this program the creation of museum-reserve has a whole-some effect on development of a town and Kirillov district. Decree of 1968 speeded up the road building Vologda – Povenetc with a turning to Kirillov and Ferapontovo. They built a hotel, a tourist center in the town. They began to build houses with modern amenities. Building was realized according to a plan, which provided the conservation of restricted areas round the monastery.
New status of the museum led to his considerable expansion. In 1974 they assigned monuments of Goritsky convent to the Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve. In 1975 branch of the museum in the Ferapontov monastery began to be named Museum of frescoes of Dionissy and got the proper staff. In 1979 a museum in neighbor town Belozersk became a branch of the Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve.
Creation of the museum-reserve favored numerical and qualitative growth of scientific personnel. By their efforts all exhibitions were reconstructed, scores of new exhibitions were built, work on completing of museum funds raised to higher levels. The museum activities were met with approval and were awarded in 1983 and 1984 with Diplomas Second Class of Ministry of culture of RSFSR.
Appearance of branches, expansion of exhibition areas, restoration of monuments of art, publishing activity demanded development of research work in the museum. From the middle of 1980 they headed for advanced study of monuments and museum collections. They set to work on catalogues. The researchers of the museum began to take an active part in scientific conferences, seminars, congresses. Articles of museum workers appeared regularly in scientific collections and periodicals. Annually the museum published the booklets on exhibitions.
Qualitative changes took place in collection and fund work. Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve was one of the first in the country who passed to the second system of stocktaking. In 1990 they opened fund of ceramics for visitors in the museum. Museum collections grew considerably. In 1924 395 exhibits from the monastery went to the museum. In 1956 there were 7805 exhibits in the museum, in 1991 there were over 29 thousands of exhibits. Many exhibits acquired by the museum were received as gifts from locals, including bells, icons. Considerable part of exhibits came in the museum as a result of complex museum expeditions. This enabled to form valuable collections of the Old Russian and folk art, archaeology, written sources.
By the end of 80 of 20th century many areas of museum work were reduced in connection with unstable socio-political situation in the country, with the growth of inflation, with rise in prices of transport and service, with fall of scale of living of population. In 1993 the attendance of the museum-reserve went down in four times. A number of years the restoration works were not financed, the library stock of the museum was not completed, expeditionary activity of the museum was ceased.
True, for the reason that from the summer navigation of 1991 the museum-reserve entered the new water tourist route «Moscow – St. Petersburg», the comfortable ships with foreign tourists called at a pier of Valaam, Kizhi, Goritsy. On this route Kirillov became the visiting card of the Vologda region.
The government of the Vologda region rendered necessary financial and moral support to the museum. In 1993 they worked out Program of preparation and celebration of 600-anniversary of Kirillo-Belozersky and Ferapontov monasteries. In the course of realization of this Program many projects of restoration were executed, the vast exhibition and publishing program was realized. On April 2, 1997 the Russian President signed a decree that included Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve into the List of Specially Important Objects of Cultural Heritage of the People of the Russian Federation. The increasing of status of museum brought to the qualitative improvement of the budget financing of the museum, enhanced his prestige, allowed to decide questions about the development of facilities and equipment of museum, to develop actively all areas of museum work.
At present efforts of the museum are directed to forming and development of museum collection, safeguarding museum values and creation of optimal conditions for their storage. Acquisition of collections is one of the main tasks of the museum-reserve. Exhibition work becomes priority area of the activity of the museum. Lately the museum took an active part in foreign exhibition projects. The restoration of movable and immovable monuments is an important area of the museum work. Large work is conducted on a monitoring of architectural monuments. Research and publishing work is one of main areas of museum activity. Annually scientific conferences took place in the museum. Publishing activity of the museum is directed to publication of results of scientific researches, popularization of historical and cultural monuments, attraction of broad sections of the public to the museum, including foreign tourists. The cataloging of museum collections is no less significant work. Scientific and education work of the museum is directed on popularization of museum monuments, his collections, and on attraction of visitors to the museum. Attendance of Kirillo-Belozersky museum-reserve makes up about 260 000 persons in a year (together with a branch in Museum of Frescoes of Dionissy). Foreign tourists account 40% of an attendance. Annually the employees of the museum conduct about 400 cultural events for 20 000 persons and give about 500 lectures.