Creativity and daily life in the gulags
The museum’s collection on art and life in the camps began in 1988, when the society started collecting the documents and materials that currently make up Memorial’s archives. Along with documents from their relatives who had suffered under the Soviet Union, many contributors also brought drawings, photographs and other memories from the gulags and this led to the collections featured in the museum.
The museum itself was organised in 1990, led by the art historian V. A. Tikhanova. Since then, its main contributors have been the families of the repressed, who have saved relics, heirlooms, paintings and graphic works created by their relatives during their time in the camps. Some of the exhibits, however, are the result of trips to the sites of the former camps.
As of the beginning of 2015, the collection contained over 2,400 original examples of art and daily life in the gulags. The focus of the collection is the thousands of paintings and graphic works produced by imprisoned artists, including genre sketches, portraits, interiors, landscapes and sketches of decorations and costumes used in the plays which took place in the camps’ theatres. The artists include well-known masters [amongst others, Vasily Shukhaev, Mikhail Sokolov and Mikhail Rudakov], as well as countless unknown amateurs who survived the camps or ended up living in exile.
The collection also contains a number of handmade products and everyday items of camp life, such as clothing, tools, utensils and other objects. Additional exhibits include examples of camp propaganda, printed productions and the personal documents of the incarcerated artists.
Part of the collection has been saved onto negatives, slides, and scanned images. As such, in addition to the books inside the museum containing listings of all the exhibits, there is also an electronic catalogue of the main exhibits available on site and a card index of the painters and other suppressed artists. For guests coming from further afield, there is the additional possibility of accessing an online text catalogue, which lists many of the exhibits in both Russian and English.
The museum also arranges exhibitions and has played host to 60 different art and documentary exhibits (a list of which can be seen here) since 1989. Many of these expositions have defied the restrictions of the museum’s own premises and, in cooperation with diverse partners, have been able to be seen in locations throughout the region. Memorial’s collection is also displayed annually in numerous exhibitions, museums and galleries throughout Russia and other European countries.
In addition to these objects and works of art, the museum possesses a photo archive, containing around 13,000 original and reproduced images. The archive includes photos of the lives and labours of the imprisoned, of everyday existence in the USSR, of Soviet propaganda and of the activities of the Memorial Society itself.
The collection consists of photographs and photo albums, images from old newspapers and magazines and the works of photographers, which they themselves donated to the Museum. The collection also includes a computer database of images from other museums and archives.
Memorial’s museum’s opening hours and contact information can be found below. The exhibition hall is open to all visitors during these opening hours and general excursions through the museum’s collections can also be arranged by prior appointment. One can also access the online catalogue in advance of one’s visit, by clicking here.
Contact information and opening hours:
The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 to 19:00, whenever an exhibition is currently taking place.
Address: 127006, Moscow, st. Karetny Ryad, h. 5/10 (next to the Tsvetnoy Bul’var, Mayakovskaya, Tverskaya and Chekhovskaya underground stations)
Tel: +7 (495) 699 65 81
Museum director: Irina Gennadyevna Galkova
Curators: Svetlana Yakovlena Fadeeva and Maria Pavlovna Novoselova
Curator of the photo archive: Natalia Alekseevna Malykhina