Alexander Palace Curator answers questions about the Imperial residence

Maria Filiptseva. Photo © Ruslan Shamukov

The curator of the Alexander Palace exposition, Maria Filiptseva, answers questions about the Imperial Residence at Tsarskoye Selo.

Tatiana Grinchuk: Will the children’s rooms be restored?

Maria Filiptseva: Unfortunately, the reconstruction of the interiors of the Children’s wing[1] is not planned, this is due to the lack of historical sources to carry out such works.

Katya Meshalkina: What is it that you like most about your work? Are there any items in the exposition that you are your personal favourite?

Maria Filiptseva: I really like the opportunity to work creatively, especially in the Alexander Palace, where we talk about the everyday life of Nicholas II and his family. I really love to conduct historical research, because an exhibit should not just simply stand on a shelf, you need to study its origin, the history of existence. Among my favourite items, are the works of the Danish Royal Porcelain Factory. Be sure to pay attention to the porcelain figurines of animals and birds that are exhibited in many of the palace’s interiors.

Irina Zrazhevskaya: Why is the hidden safe in the bedroom of Nicholas and Alexandra not available for viewing? Has it survived?

Maria Filiptseva: The safe was lost either during the war, or during the restoration work carried out in the 1950s.

Irina Zrazhevskaya: What happened to Kuchumov’s album, into which fabric samples were pasted, etc. the Imperial chambers?

Maria Filiptseva: The albums created by Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov[2] are in the collection of the Pavlovsk Museum.

Irina Zrazhevskaya: Why are there no descriptions of the exhibits in the apartments?

Maria Filiptseva: We have tried to recreate the interiors as close as possible to their historic original as they looked more than a hundred years ago, and present them as a home. An audio guide will be available soon in the museum, making it possible to obtain descriptions and information on the most significant items of each interior.

Irina Zrazhevskaya: What is the progress of the restoration of the other interiors?

Maria Filiptseva: The Mountain [Mountain] Hall with a recreated slide and the State Halls are still in the process of being recreated. There are also plans to recreate the Raspberry Drawing Room.

Irina Zrazhevskaya: Please tell us about the keys to the Alexander Palace, which are now displayed in the main corridor which separate the Imperial apartment. Were they previously kept in the Museum of the History of Modern Russia?

Maria Filiptseva: The keys were provided for temporary storage by the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia (GCMSIR), they have now been returned to the palace. The keys to the apartments were preserved by the family of the assistant to the commandant of the Alexander Palace V.M.Dommazyants, who was appointed to this position in June 1917. After his death, his relatives handed over the keys for storage to the Museum of the Revolution (now the State Center for Contemporary Art).


PHOTO: the second floor of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, where the former rooms of the August children were located. The original interiors have been lost.

[1] The children’s rooms were located on the second floor of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The original interiors have been lost. In 2011, they were refitted for temporary exhibitions, and open to visitors for the first time in more than 80 years. The first exhibition “Alexander Palace. Visiting the Children’s Rooms” ran from 2nd June to 11th September 2011. Framed portraits of OTMAA decorated the walls leading to their rooms. A small catalogue [in Russian] was published.

[2] Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993), was a museum worker, art historian, honoured culture worker of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (1975), honorary citizen of the town of Pavlovsk (1992).

In 1932, he worked as a cataloguer of the Pavlovsk Palace Museum; from 1937, he headed the Alexander Palace Museum in Pushkin. In 1941, Kochumov took charge of Pushkin museum collections evacuation to Gorky, then to Novosibirsk. In 1944, he returned to Leningrad, and took part in setting up the Central Depository of Museum Collections, becoming its first director.

Kuchumov was a member of the Investigation Commission for Valuables Looted by the Nazis (with Kuchumov’s assistance, over 12,000 exhibits were found and returned to museums).

In 1956, he was appointed chief curator of Pavlovsk Palace Museum, and became one of the authors of the project of restoration of its interiors. A specialist in the 18th -19th centuries Russian material culture history, Kuchumov provided consulting support to the Hermitage, the State Museum of History, Tretyakov Gallery and other museums.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 December 2021