Author Topic: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum  (Read 5015 times)

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Offline Helen_Azar

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Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« on: April 15, 2006, 11:10:34 AM »
One of the main reasons for my five week stay in Tsarskoe Selo last summer was to conduct an original research study of two TS museums, one of which was the Alexander Palace. I just added the HTML version of this paper to our website for the benefit of those who may be interested in reading my study.

Here is the abstract and contents:

[size=20]Historical Museum Displays as Tools for Creating National Identity: Connecting the Past to the Present.[/size] This original research study explores two historical museums of the town of Pushkin/Tsarskoe Selo - Catherine and Alexander Palaces, focusing on the methods by which Russia's historical heritage is constructed and conveyed through the displays in these museums. Included are detailed room-by-room descriptions and photos of the displays of the "Memories at the Alexander Palace” permanent exhibit. The study also examines the town of Tsarskoe Selo and its history, as well as that of Feodorovsky Gorodok and Cathedral.

[size=14]Contents:[/size]

*Introduction to the Research Site

*Research Objectives and Design
Setting
Study Participants
Data Collection


*Initiation Into the World of a Russian Institution

*Voices From Behind the “Coulisse”
History of the Museum as Told by the Staff

*Inside the Tsar’s Home
Touring the Palace Museum

*Concept of Authenticity

*The Grand Palace – Catherine Palace

*The Town of Pushkin (World War II Years)
Destructive Creation

*In Conclusion…
Nostalgia for illusions

*Afterward: Beyond the Displays
The Ghosts of the Past

*References

Full text: http://www.geocities.com/mushkah//HistoricalMuseums.html
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Offline Ortino

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2006, 12:20:59 PM »
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading your study. Not only was it terribly insightful, but it distracted me from my work.  ;) As I never had the opportunity to visit the Alexander Palace when I was in Russia (the closest I got was just enough time to snap a picture), it's great to have the perspectives of the people who actually work at the palace and/or live in the area. Your discussion about authenticity and the planned restoration really got me thinking as well. I had never considered what historical effects the restoration might have until now. I had always hoped the palace might be restored to its full former glory, but now I wonder how it will it affect the integrity of the structure. Again, thank you.  :)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Ortino »

Offline Mazukov

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2006, 06:24:44 AM »
I agree.  I, too enjoyed reading about your study. Most insightful.

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2006, 02:55:08 PM »
Thanks, Helen. It was particularly interesting to me that you articulated in a scholarly manner much of what we have heard over the years about the AP and of course updated what has changed since the days of perestroika.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2006, 08:00:16 AM »
Thanks for the feedback, guys. I did this study for academic credit, but in the next year or so I am going to work on revising it to get it ready for publication. I have a lot more information that I didn't use, but which is very interesting, so hopefully I will be able to include all that too.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2006, 08:59:39 PM »
After the end of the war the Alexander Palace was the primary depot for all items returning from various palaces around the Soviet Union.  This was because the Alexander Palace was the least damaged of the palaces.  At first the museum workers, including Kuchumov, worked under the belief that the Alexander Palace was going to be restored as it was before the war.  Restoration began on the personal rooms of Nicholas and Alexandra, the exterior and the Formal Rooms of the palace.

This was a daunting task as Kuchumov saw the wrecked condition of Mauve Room with the tattered frieze of Alexandrov hanging from the walls.  Of course the condition of these rooms was nothing in comparison to the burnt-out hulks of the Catherine and Pavlovsk Palaces which were virtually lost.

The restoration proceeded until and order came down that the rooms of Imperial wing were to be destroyed and turned into a museum of the poet Pushkin in preparation for a huge international conference to be held to commemorate him.  In  place of the rooms of the Romanovs plain exhibition halls were to be created.

Kuchumov begged and pleaded to save the palace interiors but he lost.  The fact that Nicholas's New Study and Reception room survived is an accident.  There was not enough time to destroy them before the Pushkin celebrations took place.  Immediately afterwards the plans for the Pushkin museum were shelved and the building was turned over to the Baltic Fleet.

I want everyone to know that in the late 80's and early 90's, when we were fighting to get the palace reopened, there were ex Soviet bureaucrats who hated Nicholas and Alexandra - the whole 'Romanov' legacy who were determined to see the remaining rooms of Nicholas gutted and the palace restored in the style of Nicholas I.

Can you believe this?  It's true and I believe that the only thing that stopped it was our protest against this barbaric act.  I am not entirely convinced that the Maple Room and the rest of the Imperial wing will be restored as it was in '39 because I have seen the level of hatred for Nicholas and Alexandra, particularly among old Communists.  I think everyone understands the popularity of Nicholas and Alexandra now and this is less likely to happen, but you would be surprised to learn that there are some who publicly express support for the restoration of the rooms and then privately work against it.

Now there is a legitimate debate to be made about the restoration of the right-hand wing and certainly one to made about the support areas of the palace - such as the tunnel that ran from the kitchen to the basement of the palace and the service rooms on that floor.  I plan to put up the WMF report on the palace site so that people can read those recommendations.

The rooms of the Alexander Palace have not been fully understood until recently and - in large part - the website can be thanked for that.  Even now visitors confuse the Mauve Room and the Bedroom, and the luxury of the rooms is impossible to comprehend - the fabulous silk fabrics that covered the walls, the plush carpet, etc.  The sorry, deplorable state of the rooms is creating a huge PR disaster for the palace.  Visitors to the palace spread the word on what a disappointment the rooms are these days and it gets around fast.

It is not the fault of the museum people who truly love the palace and are doing all they can with no money and little attention from the powers that be.  They are the worthy successors of Kuchumov and I know he would be proud of their valiant efforts.

The fact that embarrassingly cheap movie props and flimsy thin curtains destroy any effective presentation of the New Study to the public, it could be said it is better than no New Study being open at all.

I could go on and on but I will run out of allowed characters soon so that I need to draw these ramblings to a close.  I intend to use my new blog in the Palace site to try and get out the word on what needs to be done.  In this I am following my promise to Kuchumov that the Imperial Rooms will be restored exactly as they were in 1917.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by BobAtchison »

Offline Jim_Wilhelm

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2006, 03:42:27 PM »
All and Especially Helen:

This is what I look for when I come to visit this site. I can't get enough of this subject matter. Helen, your treatise is absolutely awesome.  I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed reading it. I hope you received the full academic credit you deserve for it (which, in my book, would be a Ph.D.). You mentioned you might try to have it published. My fear is that someone might publish something based on your work before you do and leave you with no more than a bibliographic notation.

I always find Bob's observations particularly astute. This time it was the observation that certain players could be working both sides against the middle. That is, to appear to support an authentic restoration (ca. 1917) vs. trying to subvert it because of some stupid political predjudice.

It seems odd to me that the major impetus for authentic restoration seems to be coming from non-Russian sources. An undertaking like that, it seems, should be coming from Russians themselves. Maybe that's because, as Helen has pointed out to me before, Russians seem to lack a certain strength of character when it comes to their own initiative to accomplish something, even improving their own lot after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They seem to want to wait until someone does it for them.

Once again, kudos to Helen for an amazing piece of work. Please publish this Helen. I can see this as something worthy of publication in a scholarly journal like National Geographic or as a beautiful illustrated volume like some of the ones I saw for sale at the Russian Summer exhibition in Santa Fe. Beautiful job!

Jim Wilhelm
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Offline M_Breheny

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2006, 07:42:48 PM »
Helen, you did an outstanding job.  I found your research fascinating.  Thank you.

And thanks, Bob, for your input.  I always learn so much from your posts.   I look forward to your future blog.

Offline Jim_Wilhelm

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2006, 09:55:18 AM »
All:

I can also see it as the basis for a film documentary; the kind one might see on The History Channel or The Discovery Channel. Of course I have no idea about how you would accomplish this but I can sure see it going that way. I loved it. I'm going to read it again.

Jim Wilhelm
Albuquerque, NM USA
Inside every small problem is a large problem struggling to get out

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Offline strom

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2006, 05:48:35 PM »
Thank you Bob for your comments.  I have nothing especially to say except that until the AP is fully restored as the most important home of Russia's last Imperial house it will remain as a sad and horrific reminder of Communist and Nazi barbarism.  That is useful in looking at the short run of Russian and European history, but the Imperial Family is revered for their incarnation of the long run of Russia in the modern period and that will win out.  I'm sure everyone here hopes to live to see the day.  

Offline Tania+

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2006, 07:22:16 PM »
Well stated Strom. Could not have measured words better.
Bob, I pray your commitment to the gentleman for the restoration is realized, saddened if it is not.
Unfortunately, Russians have been taught not to cherish the beauty of their palaces and valued contents therein. You can see how the Communists maligned the IF, so it is no wonder that the very peoples themselves, are somewhat lost as how to think or be motivated to even think to restore anything of this vein.  As Strom has stated, it will take time, but I also think that it will come to fruition.

Helen_A, great treatise. I look forward to your works publication !

Tatiana+

Quote
Thank you Bob for your comments.  I have nothing especially to say except that until the AP is fully restored as the most important home of Russia's last Imperial house it will remain as a sad and horrific reminder of Communist and Nazi barbarism.  That is useful in looking at the short run of Russian and European history, but the Imperial Family is revered for their incarnation of the long run of Russia in the modern period and that will win out.  I'm sure everyone here hopes to live to see the day.  
TatianaA


Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2006, 05:59:44 PM »
Quote
 The fact that embarrassingly cheap movie props and flimsy thin curtains destroy any effective presentation of the New Study to the public, it could be said it is better than no New Study being open at all.
  
I tend to agree with this.

Bob, thanks for the info you posted. My feelings about the full restoration of the AP are a little mixed. On the one hand, I would like to see it exactly as it looked on the eve of the revolution, even if replicas are used to achieve that. So few original AP artifacts survived that this would have to be the case. On the other hand, it feels more authentic the way it is now and maybe just some cosmetic and structural upkeep would be better... It would be really nice if they cleared out the area behind it and fixed the outer structure - in some areas it seems to be falling apart.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2006, 06:01:18 PM »
And again, thanks everyone for your feedback!

Jay

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Re: Research Study of the Alexander Palace Museum
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2006, 07:57:43 PM »
Quote
All:

I can also see it as the basis for a film documentary; the kind one might see on The History Channel or The Discovery Channel. Of course I have no idea about how you would accomplish this but I can sure see it going that way. I loved it. I'm going to read it again.

Jim Wilhelm
Albuquerque, NM USA

Helen, you're work was marvelous!!! I totally agree with Jim_Wilhelm. I see this going further. I look forward to your revisions if you post them.