Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

Elena Novikova-Kitaeva

Head, Museum Educational Center Department, Peterhof

Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

Razvodnaya Ulitsa, 2, St Petersburg, Russia, 198516

Intermuseum Grand-prix 2019


Peterhof. When Museum Becomes University



The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve has the highest attendance rate in Russia. In 2019 we received more than 6.3 millions visitors. About 7% of them were children and teenagers under 16 years. Generally, it refers to Russian and foreign mass tourism: people, who come to Peterhof to see the work of fountains. However, it is important to notice that 32 Peterhof museums have educational potential. One of the museum-reserve missions today is to involve the local society both from Saint Petersburg and Peterhof, suburban town, where the museum is situated. Our chief partner in that mission is the Academic Gymnasium No.56 of Saint Petersburg, one of the most prominent comprehensive education institutions in Northwestern District.

The collaboration between Museum and Gymnasium started in 2016. In 2019 the collaboration project was nominated for the best Educational Project at the International Festival INTERMUSEUM in Moscow – the most significant Russian museum competition. That project along with two more successful ones in other categories provided The Peterhof State Museum Reserve with the Grand Prix of the competition.

The concept of the project belongs to key persons in contemporary Russian culture – Maya Pildes, the Chair of Gymnasium Council, the People’s Teacher of Russian Federation and Elena Kalnitskaya, Director General of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, Doctor of Culture Studies, professor. The driving force behind the collaboration was the gymnasium educational division led by its director, Sergey Danilov, and deputy director Elena Polyasheva.

The main workshop at the museum is the educational center New Farm, where 13 teachers, methodologists and administrators maintain the project. Anna Lyashko and Elena Novikova-Kitaeva are in charge of the center.

The collaboration Museum+Gymnasium includes wide range of activities: conferences, exhibitions, media projects. But educational courses are the essential.

One of the interesting formats represents School of Museum Professions. Intensive. A group of high school students comes to Peterhof, where they spend two days, living at the hotel, and actually immerse themselves in museum-reserve life. The two whole days of trainings, guided tours, masterclasses with museum specialists, group project work and they are to open their own collective exhibition.

The major Museum and Gymnasium project – are Peterhof Universities. It is a system of museum classes for 4th, 7th and 10th grade students (i.e. for junior, intermediate and high school), that includes three meetings during the school year for each group. During 2018-2019 school year 27 groups of students visited Peterhof, 781 Gymnasium students came to Peterhof museums thrice. The aim of the project is to teach history lessons on the base of Peterhof exhibitions, to provide students with the experience of working in the museum, to let them try to analyze the original artifacts of different epochs.

The classes have different formats (interactive quest-excursions, complex classes with performances and workshops) and are held in different venues: in 9 museums, 3 parks and at the Educational Centre New Farm.


The project begins for the 10-11 years old junior school students. This module is called Peterhof. The Beginning. The first class is held in the Lower Park and Bathhouse Block museum. Museum specialists tell students about Peter I times and help them to trace the symbolic model of the 18th century universe, that was embedded in Peterhof. The second class is devoted to the Grand Embassy of Peter the Great, new European habits and technologies. It is held in the Educational Center New Farm in the form of complex class, that includes short performance and a Dutch tile painting workshop. At least students visit the Peter the Great’s Palace in Strelna. The excursion is devoted to the travelling traditions and to the ways in which means of transport and communications influence culture development.

The module Discoveries and Inventions of the Modern Age, developed for 13-14 years old, deals with the Age of Discovery, Catherine the Great, symbols of the Modern Age art. The participants visit Chinese Palace and Picture House museum in Oranienbaum. The Picture House museum, and particularly its multimedia theatre, shows the high interest of the time to the baroque festivals and demonstrates interconnection of art and engineering. Teenagers are encouraged to think over the importance of the engineering and its development in Russia in the end of 18th century. The issue of communication technologies is in the focus of the class, held at Palace Telegraph Station in Alexandria Park. The interactive nature of the museum with an accent on old-time technologies contrasts with contemporary ways of communications to which teenagers are used to.

The main form of working with the 16-17 years old high-school children, is a discussion. During the classes, overarched by the module Peterhof as a Representation of Power, students are encouraged to speculate on how historical events are represented at the museum. They try to reveal the mutual dependence of architectural pieces and political agenda considering the cases of Peterhof palaces: Marly, Grand Peterhof Palace and the Farm Palace. Studying the biography of Alexander II, the Liberator, invites teenagers to reflect on an issue of what is more important in the course of history – circumstances or personality, good luck or professionalism. The discussion covers the topics of the Great Patriotic War and a remarkable feat of postwar restoration.


The essentials of the Peterhof Universities are the creative approach to the historical material, dialogue, following the itinerary and blue-sky thinking in pursuit of answers. Combining theory and practice. Not forgetting the emotional aspect: it is a trip to the suburban town with all its magnificent palace and park ensembles, change of a perspective, intellectual walk with museum education specialist instead of a regular guide. The teenager’s attitude changes, becomes more personal.

The Peterhof Universities project has been run for three years already. It includes additional forms of education. For instance, students can pass a fun test on the base of the social networks after the excursions. For the junior school students a big quiz based on all classes information was prepared, but the coronavirus pandemic corrected the plans.

However, we had to abandon some of our primary goals. For example, the collaboration of the whole class turned out to be impossible due to the heavy workloads of the basic school curriculum. Although the partnership of museum specialists and Gymnasium teachers has led to successful project work in small groups.

Both Museum and Gymnasium are satisfied with the results. The case of this collaboration revealed several essential elements of success. Firstly, both partners should be oriented to constant development, they should be ready and have courage to go above and beyond the standards, being totally supported by the administration of both Museum and Gymnasium. Secondly, the museum education modules should be formed in cooperation with teachers. And thirdly, planning and good management within both institutions is crucial.

The Peterhof Universities project was created upon the request of the particular gymnasium. There are no comparable projects of such a large scale, following a child through all his or her school years in Russia. However today the concept of systematic collaboration of Museum and Gymnasium is time-honoured and available. The prize for the Best Educational Project at the most prominent Russian competition INTERMUSEUM-2019 played an important role in promoting it, and we are glad to introduce our project to our European colleagues.


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