The history of creating the Myshkinsky People’s Museum

1966 The capital of Navigation Pilots Museum. The Museum was founded in 1966 by a group of townspeople interested in history. It was created as a public organization for children and youth to study local history, with no financial support from the government or local authorities.

For many years the Museum didn’t even have a building--the founders and their friends kept their collections in their houses and sheds. A few years later when local newspaper reporters got interested in the organization, an old, abandoned building that was part of the church's cemetery was given to the youth organization which became the museum's first home.

Three years later, the building was restored to accommodate the first visitors. It was a small and sentimental first exhibition, but it was the beginning of the future. Only one room in the museum building had heating and it was the office for the Museum Council. It was here that young museum enthusiasts spent long winter evenings planning their scientific activities, studied local history and dreamed about the future.

For the next 7 years, here, in the town outskirts, among the cemetery monuments, in the birch tree park the Museum took root. These were wonderful, full of energy and ideas and no money years that helped unite young people and made them into a strong local history study organization.

1970 Ethnographic Museum of Peasant Architecture. When Myshkin decided to build a new school the old school buildings, which included workshops, were redesigned. One of these workshop building was actually the warehouse of the local merchant named Kalyukin which the museum founders thought would make a perfect place for a new open-air museum.They asked the town fathers for it and got it!

It was the beginning of the open air museum which step by step over a 10 year period, peacefully or less peacefully, expanded its territory from Uglichskaya Street to the Studyeny Creek. One by one, piece by piece, old traditional peasant buildings, barns, chapels and blacksmith’s workshops were brought and re-built on this area to create a living history of the region's past.

The Museum still had no federal or local financial support, but being driven by enthusiasm, energy and courage of its young museum army, it continued to grow.

The team continued to salvage new items from local villages (at least once a week) and take long trips to other regions of North Russia twice a year to expand its collection--from weaving machines from the North- West part of Russia ( so called Nonblack Soil Zone of Russia) to its collection of oversized hammer works. This was the time when the museum decided to start to exhibit town and country life the way it was in olden times.

In 1970, the museum started to offer their own tour programs and children from local summer camps and school, people from local B&Bs became its first tourists. The museum started to earn money and planed its first budget. Although it was a youth organization, the boys and girls were responsible for chores, and for selecting a general Manager, a Record keeper—even a Logistics manager. The team was big (about 50 children), and had a structure similar to an army, with units and commanding officers!

When the team went on their annual expeditions, the board of commanding officers was responsible for making all decisions. When the team came back to Myshkin, it was again under the leadership of its founder and the chairperson of the museum council, Vladimir Grechukhin, a local newspaper man from ” Volzhskiye Zori”. 1991. The Museum of the Mouse. The popularity of the Museum was growing and more and more people came to visit the town and the museum having read about it in many Russian newspapers, The Museum’s old friend and a great supporter, Ilya Medovoy, a journalist from a famous Russian newspaper “ Sovyietskaya Kultura” gave us an idea to start a museum devoted to mice (Myshkin in Russian means “mouse”). The idea was immediately accepted and the Museum of the Mouse opened its doors to the first visitors in 1991. Since then, The Museum of the Mouse has become the trade mark of the town.

1991. P. A Smirnov, the Great Vodka Manufacturer’s Museum. The next museum that joined the Museum complex in 1991 dedicated to P. A Smirnov, the Great Vodka Manufacturer’s Museum. The museum is devoted to our famous countryman and Russia's vodka King. In the early 90s the Museum complex had grown to a collection of almost 10, 000 items and had almost 2 ha (20,000m2) of land.

The first 12 traditional Russian architecture objects became the core of the open air Ethnographic Museum. With the support of the regional governor Anatoliy Lisitsin, the town became a real tourist center, with unique museums that first attracted 5,000 people and today attract more than100,000 per year from around the world! Today, the “Nonprofit Private Art and Culture Establishment ( НЧУК)” Myshkinsky People’s Museum” includes 7 museums: The Museum of the Mouse ,The Capital of Navigation Pilots Museum (Myshkin town history museum), P. A Smirnov, the Great Vodka Manufacturer’s Museum , Ethnographic Museum of Peasant Architecture ( open air museum), Unique Self-propelled Machinery Museum, Merchant Makhaev’s Estate – Life of Merchants (18-19th century) Museum, Museum of Myshkin Peasantry ( with exhibition on linen and ship skin fabric manufacturing) and holds annual conferences on local history and ecology and publishes books.

The Museum Complex is run by a Community Board and has 12 employees and lots of young volunteers who come to help during their summer school break.