One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise nearly three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad. The Hermitage is a federal state property. Since 1990, the director of the museum has been Mikhail Piotrovsky.
Out of six buildings of the main museum complex, four, named the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage, are partially open to the public. The other two are the Hermitage Theatre and the Reserve House. The entrance ticket for foreign tourists costs four times as much as the fee paid by Russian citizens. However, the entrance is free of charge the first Thursday of every month for all visitors, and free daily for students and children. The museum is closed on Mondays. The entrance for individual visitors is located in the Winter Palace, accessible from the Courtyard.
Adjoining to the winter palace is the hermitage, built by the Empress Catherine, for the purpose of retirement from the cares of state, and the reception of those friends whom she admitted to her particular intimacy. It is a spacious and magnificent building; contains a very splendid private theatre, only used on particular occasions; and, being situated so near to the other, appears to have been a very unnecessary piece of extravagance. These apartments seem now only des tined to contain the vast collection of fine pictures which belong to the imperial house.
A visit to Saint Petersburg in the winter of 1829-1830, Thomas Raikes
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