The Zoological (Zoology) Museum in St. Petersburg is the largest museum of its kind in Russia and one of the largest in the world. Its history is linked with the Cabinet of Curiosities (Kunstkammer) - the very first museum in Russia, created by Peter the Great in 1714. If you happen to be on Vasilevsky Island, it is certainly worth visiting the museum, and doubly so if your kids tag along.
The Zoological Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences was founded in 1832 and opened to the public in 1838. At that time, the core collection was made of the items taken from the Department of Zoology exhibits at the Kunstkammer. Significant contribution to the creation of the museum fund was made by Academician Brandt, who became its first director. Famous Russian travelers - Nikolai Przewalski, Maclay and many others also donated valuable artifacts brought from their expeditions.
The growing inventory needed new premises and in 1896 the museum moved to the southern warehouse building of the Exchange – a yellow building on the left of the Exchange. In 1901, after the completion of the reconstruction of buildings, the museum held its opening in the presence of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, many members of the royal family and government officials.Throughout the 150 years that have elapsed since its founding it has been constantly supplemented by a variety of different collections. Today it contains exhibits of some 40,000 different species inhabiting the Earth including many rare and even unique examples which are not possessed by any other museum in the world. Pride of place among these are the stuffed mammoth from Berezovo, which had been completely preserved in the permafrost and a baby mammoth that was found in the summer of 1977 near Magadan. Also of unique value are the exhibits that were brought by the famous Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky from Central Asia and include a wild horse, a wild camel and wild yaks, all of which are now almost completely extinct. There are fine collections of parrots, humming birds, marsupials and monkeys, many species of which are on the point of extinction. The invertebrate section has numerous rare molluscs, sponges, corails and polyps. Housed in the galleries is a vast collection of insects, most prominent among which are the magnificent examples of tropical butterflies and giant beetles. There are numerous dioramas in the museum showing the animals in their natural surroundings. Particularly interesting among these are the dioramas showing giant manta-rays, birds, seals, a colony of emperor penguins and saigak goats.
In 1930, the Museum became part of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In fact it is a laboratory for research in the field of zoology. Currently, the Exhibition Department of the Institute includes 12 laboratories and two biological stations on the White Sea and the Baltic Scientific Library and Information and Publishing Division.