World Monuments Fund Alexander Palace Time Machine
World Monuments Fund Alexander Palace Time Machine

Contents

Acknowledgments

From the Mayor of St. Petersburg

Foreward

History of the Alexander Palace

The Restoration Project

The Museum Project

Some Next Steps

Project Participants

The Romanov Dynasty

Chronology

Sources

Zoom Views

Palace Floorplan

Garden Facade

Front Entrance

The Museum Project

 
 
 
 
Restoration Philosophy
The Alexander Palace museum project will be based upon the finest contemporary models for historic house preservation, curatorial management, and interpretation as developed over recent decades. In Russia, France, England, and the United States, the rebuilding and restoration of palaces, noble estates, and presidential residences have brought the domestic lives of historic figures to a vast audience of today's visitors and have illuminated history in a new way. Accordingly, museum professionals have become increasingly concerned with their responsibility for the authenticity of what visitors learn from house museum experiences. Historic houses have taken on an explicit role in teaching history across several disciplines: the history of art and architecture and social, political and even economic history. These histories are compelling because they embody direct human experience, particularly domestic experience with which most visitors can identify. It is critical that the Alexander Palace museum show some of the range of human experience lived by many people at the palace.

The principles guiding the architectural conservation of the Alexander Palace will be of paramount importance. According to Articles 9 and 12 of the 1966 Venice Charter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), any restoration work should comply with this basic principle:
 
. . . the process of restoration is a highly specialized operation. Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for the original material and authentic documents. It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case, moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and bear a contemporary stamp.... Replacements of missing parts must integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the same time, must be distinguishable from the original so that any restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence.

To restore the architectural intelligibility of the exterior, the Alexander Palace 'extras' will be limited to restoring building components lost through war, deterioration and incompatible previous repairs. These might include, on the exterior, reinstating chimneys, balconies, or cast-iron railings, to name a few. On the interior, interventions will be as invisible as possible: structural repairs and replacement mechanical and electrical systems will be concealed behind finishes and furnishings in a conscious effort not to interfere with the visitor's experience of the period rooms and the exhibition galleries.

In planning the reconstruction of interior spaces, planners must also consider the question of how extensively environments should be recreated. Even unfurnished interiors can powerfully evoke lives once lived there, but inauthentic reconstructions can detract from the museum experience.

Design Concept
The existing layout of the palace suggests that both period rooms and contemporary visitor amenities can be amply provided for. The building's organization Mound a central spine provides for two access points to most rooms, providing generous circulation for visitors and staff. The palace can be organized into three zones: the Imperial Suite, the Central Enfilade, and the English Suite, each occupying approximately a third of the floor area. Because the English Suite falls outside the proposed museum interpretation limits, this part could be adapted for the visitor entrance, amenities, and changing exhibition galleries. A museum program and design concept may be suggested for the remaining spaces.

The large scale of the palace, with about 70,000 square feet on the ground floor, permits an unparalleled opportunity to interpret not just the historic rooms which comprise about two-thirds of the first floor, but also to use secondary rooms for the interpretation of the broader history of Nicholas II's rule and the events leading to the Russian Revolution. An area of approximately 10,000 square feet of the northwest wing is ideally suited to adaptation for use as historic exhibition spaces in a manner that has not yet been realized in Russia's museums. Other spaces can provide for a 200-seat auditorium, classrooms, and workshops. The remaining 15,000 square feet could be committed to the creation of high quality visitor service facilities, including a museum shop. In addition, the palace's detached kitchen building, located to the southeast of the palace, has considerable potential as an interpretive center for the whole of Tsarskoe Selo.

Interpretation
For the design of the Alexander Palace Museum, a team of social and cultural historians should be assembled, both Russian and international, with a full knowledge of material history and Russian life. The team's goal will be to show the building to visitors as a repository of historical evidence - a living record of human lives which reflects the culture, aesthetic conventions, and aspirations of its time. The team will examine the planning and construction of the palace and the economic, social, political, intellectual, and artistic forces which gave the building its distinctive form. The motivations and knowledge of Catherine the Great and her architect's knowledge of Western European palace forms will be studied. Similarly, the ways in which the building was later adapted for family life by Nicholas II and Alexandra will be explored and defined in terms of the modem world. The project team will examine the materials used in construction and will study the architects, builders, and craftsman who worked on the palace through its history. The palace has been used by many different occupants; their ideas about the palace, and the different ways in which they have used the building, will be studied. The building's use since 1917 will also furnish the team with important information.

The conceptual framework for the interpretation of the Alexander Palace should encompass three principal themes:

  • The palace as a house museum concerning the life of the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family who lived there.
  • he palace as a history museum to tell the story of the Tsar who ruled Russia from his study, and the decisions he made at the palace that influenced the course of world history.
  • The palace as a museum to tell the story of the almost two thousand ordinary people who lived and worked there in the service of the Tsar.

One of the first steps in this project will be to establish a specific period in the life of the palace as the goal for the main interpretive theme of the museum. The most logical period to highlight, because of the large amount of surviving documentation, is that between the birth of the Tsarevich Alexis in 1904 and the departure of the Tsar for the front during World War I. This time window will become more defined as research proceeds.
 
Use of Space
Visitors will see the palace and gardens as they were fashioned and maintained by the last Imperial Family. The palace and its gardens and furnishings assumed their last significant form as a domestic setting by the first decade of the twentieth century. The standard tour should be located within that period. The interiors of greatest historical and artistic merit are those of the southeast and southwest wings, consisting of the living apartments of Nicholas and Alexandra and the formal rooms. Visitors could also be shown basement rooms to the extent that they are historically significant. The interpretation of servants' quarters will be an essential component of the museum, as well as possibly some upstairs rooms.

Some 30,000 square feet of interior space located in the northwest wing of the Palace may be used for museum support facilities. This zone of the building played a limited role in life at the Alexander Palace between 1894 and 1917. Therefore, this area seems to be the most suitable location for museum exhibition and visitor services functions. Those functions could include: exhibition galleries, a video interpretation room, galleries for display of historic clothes, a museum shop, a restaurant, a ticket sales office, a coat check, and public toilets.

The Museum Environment
A detailed analysis of the environment within the Alexander Palace and ways to control it should be the subject of a separate study. Because seasonal changes in temperature and humidity can seriously damage museum collections, the palace may need to be modified to stabilize these forces. Control systems should have a minimum of impact on both the structure of the building and on its appearance. The restoration process should include the greatest concern for fragile furnishings and finishes which for many years may have endured considerable humidity and temperature swings. Ultraviolet light filters should be used at windows of rooms containing fragile furnishings, finishes, and displays in order to prevent damage and fading.

Alexander Palace Discussion Forum

Worl Monuments Fund
 
A report issued in october 1996 by the world monuments fund an international preservation organization
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