History of museum
“His majesty, by his own decree in the year 1703, ordered this mortar not to be recast.” This inscription is carved into the bronze mortar that was cast in 1605 by master Andrei Chokhov and cannon moulder Pronia Fedorov. The cannon was to become the first exhibit in one of the richest collections devoted to war history and is now kept in the Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps.
|Central Museum gates|
The official date of its foundation is August 29, 1703, when by Peter the Great’s decree a special Zeughaus (Ger. — Military storehouse for armaments, uniforms, equipment, etc.) was built on the territory of the St. Petersburg (Peter-and-Paul) fortress for the purpose of storing and preserving old guns and cannons. Originally this had been a small wooden structure that was later rebuilt with brick. Both Russian and captured guns and cannons that were considered to have historical value were sent to this arsenal "for remembrance and future glory." The first keeper of the Arsenal was Major of Artillery S. L. Bukhvostov, the legendary "first Russian soldier" in the poteshny regiment of boy-soldiers under Peter I who was enlisted in the Preobrazhensky Regiment in 1687.
The official opening of the Zeughaus followed a serious amount of work collecting "memorable" and "curious" guns and cannons throughout the Russian Empire. Thus, for example, the Tsar issued a decree on December 6, 1702, addressing Ukrainian Hetman I. S. Mazepa, ordering that “in all Russian cities and towns mortars and cannons of both metal and bronze and various military signs are to be examined, and their descriptions and receipts sent back.” Similar decrees were also sent out to other governors.
|Building of Zeughaus in the early 18th century. Engraving from book Historical, Geographical and Topographical Description of St. Petersburg since its origin since 1703 to 1751. St. Petersburg, 1779.|
For instance, Governor of Smolensk P. S. Saltykov, in pursuance of the decree, sent off 30 cannons and 7 mortars. It is an established fact that the Tsar himself used to examine old guns that were scheduled to be recast and ordered the most valuable ones to be sent to the Arsenal. The following evidence proves that Peter the Great was greatly interested in the collection and found it of great importance. After the Narva defeat, the Russian Army was short of new artillery. Numerous old guns were recast and even bells were taken down from the belfries of churches and monasteries and used for the purpose of making guns. Some of the exhibits from the Zeughaus collection were preserved for the "remembrance" of future generations, the mortar of 1605 among them. Later on the authorities took care to fill up the collections in the Zeughaus. In 1718, General Feldzeugmeister (Master General of Ordnance) Ja.W. Bruce gave the following order to the Artillery Department: “Those bronze mortars that are forty years old are not to be taken (to be melted down and recast).” As a result eight guns were taken from the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments in 1719, and handed over to the Zeughaus to be kept “for their long service.”
In 1722–1723, Russian merchants Petr Barsukov (Borsukov) and Filimon Anikeev bartered from the Swedes the Tsar Akhilles [Achilles Rex] cannon cast by A. Chokhov (1617) and brought it to the capital. The cannon was unloaded onto the Troitskaya pier and later taken to the Zeughaus by Colonel Bakhmetiev, Commandant of the St. Petersburg Fortress, to be kept together with other old guns and cannons.
In June 1723, a merchant from Stockholm named Johan Prim purchased in Sweden and brought to Russia the Inrog [Unicorn] cannon made under Ivan the Terrible. In its order concerning placement of the cannon into the Arsenal, the Artillery Chancellery describes its further use: “This cannon is not for the artillery and not to be used in action, but was bought only for the purpose of ‘curiosity’ as an old Russian item.”
In 1725, by order of the Artillery Chancellery, all of the items collected up to that time were to be listed and the ways of keeping the collection in good order were worked out. Five years after that, an order was issued for exhibits of military history that were kept in other Russian towns and cities, including Moscow, to be transferred to St. Petersburg.
General Feldzeugmeister Count P. I. Shuvalov, who also headed the Artillery Department, made a considerable contribution to filling up the artillery collection. It is believed that it was P. I. Shuvalov who prepared the project for a decree to be signed by Empress Elizabeth on June 28, 1756, in regard to organizing the only depository of artillery monuments, later called Dostopamiatnyi Zal [Memorable Hall]. In 1776, General Feldzeugmeister Count G. G. Orlov commissioned construction of a threestorey building for the Arsenal. The building was erected on Liteinyi Prospekt (avenue). A collection of memorable things was placed in this building on the second floor.
Ivan Meller was appointed the first manager of the Dostopamiatnyi Zal. Due to his efforts, innovative, experimental and memorable guns were registered and gathered within Orlov’s house.
The collection numbered up to 6,000 exhibits by the late 18th century. At that time there was not such a collection of armament objects anywhere else in the world. Still, this was mainly a departmental depository open only to certain visitors. Access was permitted in each particular case only by a special order.
The beginning of the 19th century brought further increases to the collection and the Museum reached a new status. On May 29, 1808, an announcement was published in the Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti newspaper [St. Petersburg Records]. It announced that starting June 1, 1808, the Dostopamiatnyi Zal was available to anyone interested. Visitors were admitted daily from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m..
In 1826, arms, awards and clothes from Alexander I, and later clothes from Peter I and Peter III, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine II, and Prussian King Friedrich II were transferred from the Imperial Palace Office to the Arsenal by the order of the Emperor. It was said in a written order of General Feldzeugmeister, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich Romanov that all these things were to be placed in the Arsenal "for eternal keeping."
In addition to the Emperors’ belongings, in the first third of the 19th century the Dostopamiatnyi Zal was filled up with new samples of cannons, including many experimental ones.
From 1800–1840, banners and standards of various regiments were regularly sent to the Dostopamiatnyi Zal. They were transferred by the regiments, the Commissariat Department and the Minister of War.
During the reforms of the State machinery in 1864, it was decided to provide the building of the St. Petersburg Arsenal to the Ministry of Justice and to place a Circuit Court there. A specially founded commission was charged with deciding the further destiny of the collections. It consisted mostly of people indifferent to the military history of Russia. The decision of the Commission led the Dostopamiatnyi Zal to the edge of its downfall. They envisaged distributing the Hall’s objects among 17 different institutions (even to court stables and to the property departments of Imperial theatres) and many exhibits were to be sold or destroyed. From 1865 to 1868, a few thousand historical monuments layd in the rooms without care either for their keeping or viewing.
Emperor Alexander II was informed about the barbarous treatment of the relics and precious historical monuments of Russian military glory. Only his energetic interference saved the collections of the Dostopamiatnyi Zal from being lost forever.
Real museum life started for the collection in 1868, when a part of the building of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress Arsenal (Kronwerk) in the lower and attic storeys was provided for placing military-historical monuments. A part of the internal court was given for heavy cannons. The collection was first called a “Hall of Memorable Things of the Main Artillery Administration”, and then the Artillery Museum. Since 1903 it has been called the Historical Museum of Artillery.
|Nikolai Brandenburg (1839-1903)|
One fact in the Museum history is of particular importance. In 1872, the Museum took part in the Polytechnic Exhibition in Moscow, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Peter the Great. The artillery section of the exhibition, featuring a vast amount of objects, turned out to be the most representative in the event. The exhibits on display gave a complete (for the time), systematic and accurate picture of the development of artillery in Russia. The Emperor himself expressed his admiration at the artillery section, as did many top political and military officials of the time. After that, the Museum of Artillery became known to a wider circle of the Russian public, and when the exhibition ended it was generally recognized as the only Russian museum-storage of historical armaments with overall importance. In 1872, outstanding military historian Captain N. E. Brandenburg (later Lieutenant-General) became keeper of the Museum. This extraordinary man was gifted in many spheres of historical science and possessed profound knowledge of the subject. He set himself a task of making the Museum a real research institution. Due to his efforts special archives and a historical library were arranged in the Museum and a systematical catalogue was published, all increasing the Museum’s significance. The Museum collections were completed with many new exhibits. Ancient arms of the 16th–17th centuries were transferred to the Museum from former armories in monasteries that had been fortified posts in the frontier regions of the Moscow State.
The Museum participated in the World Exhibition in Vienna (1873), the World Exhibition in Paris (1900), exhibitions Historical and Modern Costumes (1902), In Memoriam of Peter the I (1903), The World of Children (1904), Elizabeth’s Epoch (1912), et al. It rendered much assistance for creating other museums (e.g. regimental ones, the Museum of Suvorov, the Museum of the War of 1812, the Caucasus Museum, the Museum of the General Staff Academy).
By the initiative of N. E. Brandenburg and with his active participation the 500th anniversary of the Russian artillery was celebrated in the Artillery Museum in 1889. Almost all of the newspapers in Russia covering the anniversary mentioned the wonderful collections of the Museum. Thus, the Artillery Museum gained a new meaning.
|Celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Russian Artillery on the territory of the Museum. Photo of 1889|
In the late 19th century the number of visitors to the Museum increased and the Museum was open to the public three days a week. Students of military academies, cadets and junior officers could examine the collection on Sundays as well. The library and the archive of the Museum were open daily not only to the military but also to civil historians and researchers.
In December 1903, the Museum held a celebration of its bicentennial. This event was extensively covered by mass media of the time. The Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti newspaper in its issue of December 22, 1903, wrote that “on December 21, a great meeting was held in the Historical Museum of Artillery to celebrate its 200th anniversary, presided over by General of the Artillery, member of the Military Council, honored professor N. A. Demianenkov.”
The Museum exhibits aroused interest not only in Russia, but also abroad. One may find such evidence in a report published in the newspaper Novoe Vremia [The New Times], issue of December 22, 1903, that Krupp visited the Museum four times to examine its collections.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Historical Museum of Artillery had become the largest Russian military museum containing military and artistic exhibits connected with the history of all kinds of Russian land forces.
|Museum entrance. Photo of 1912|
In March 1912, the State Duma approved the personnel of the Museum. The Historical Museum of Artillery was subordinated to the Main Artillery Administration and became an independent institution; its financing increased and Museum areas widened. By the end of 1912, the Museum had five sections: Russian monuments of military history, Russian monuments of general history, a foreign section (containing mostly trophies), a pre-historical section (with materials from excavations by N. E. Brandenburg) and a section for new acquisitions (models, colors, equipment, etc.)
In 1911, a reorganization of the Historical Museum of Artillery was intended. However, the State Duma did not support this project because of money shortage. In 1914, a new project appeared. According to it, the whole Kronwerk was offered — the island and the building — to the Ministry of Finances in order to arrange a Mint there. The Historical Museum of Artillery would then be transferred to the Peter-and-Paul Fortress to the building of the old Mint. This project, however, was not realized either because of the outbreak of World War I. During the war the Museum was open to visitors until August 1917. Collections were completed due to incoming trophies, colors of disbanded army units, samples of armament and equipment from Armies in the Field.
|Exhibition in the department of cold steels and manual fire arms history. Photo of 1912|
The well-established routine of the Museum’s work was broken by the February Revolution of 1917. The Germans lunged for Petrograd and the Provisional Government ordered all values to be urgently evacuated away from the country’s border. According to the order of the Provisional Government more than 75 % of the Museum’s collections were evacuated to the city of Yaroslavl in late September of the same year. The Artillery Museum had to survive a hard and sometimes dramatic period of its history. Unfortunately, it was not the last one.
On September 25, 1917, three barges left St. Petersburg for Yaroslavl with the property of the Museum, including its most precious guns and other exhibits, as well as the archives. The invaluable load was accompanied under the command of Ensign Kuryshev, consisting of three soldier-escorts from the 1st Artillery Brigade.
An extraordinary situation met the Museum in Yaroslavl. During the Social-Revolutionaries’ revolt (July 6–22, 1918), the space reserved for keeping the Museum collection turned into a battlefield. The Spasskii [The Savior] Monastery where the Museum property was kept suffered bombardment. 2000 colors, 300 samples of arms and all trophies from World War I perished in the fire. The property from the barges also suffered heavily. A shell went through one of them and it went down. It was lifted only in September 1918 with 54 damaged pieces of ordnance and broken gun-carriages. Another barge sprang a leak and boxes with archival documents later surfaced in the water.
A titanic work was undertaken by eight employees of the Museum in Leningrad during the rainy fall of 1924. Saving a new portion of the monuments returned from Yaroslavl that were piled up in the courtyard, they moved 320 tons of the objects to depositories. A terrible hurricane blew over the city on the night of September 23, 1924, causing great flooding on the territory of Kronwerk what greatly damaged the Museum. The most unexpected consequence of this flood, however, was a decision of the commission consisting of representatives from the Academy of Material Culture, the Military Section of the Leningrad Division of the Main Science Administration and the Hermitage. The commission examined the Museum property and considered it necessary to transfer the pre-historical section of the Historical Museum of Artillery. This consisted mostly of collections by N. E. Brandenburg that he completed during excavations, as well as colors of the Russian regular army of the 16–17th centuries and other rare and precious things which were moved to the Hermitage and other museums.
Nevertheless, during this period (from 1919 to 1924) the Museum collections increased significantly due to incoming transfers of objects previously kept in 27 Russian Imperial Army regimental museums (Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Izmailovsky, and others), as well as from collections of the Military Historical Museum of Everyday Life.
World War II interrupted the usual work of the Museum and brought many plans and projects to naught. The activities of the Museum during the war they were can be characterized as follows: saving invaluable exhibits, collecting monuments of war (relics and trophies), and providing overall assistance to the front lines.
|Building of the Museum after the raid of fascist aviation. Photo of 1941-1945|
Soon after the war important organizational changes took place in the Museum. By order of the Minister of Armed Forces of the USSR dated November 21, 1946, the Historical Museum of Artillery was no longer subordinated to the Artillery Committee of the Main Artillery Administration, but instead included in the Academy of Artillery Sciences’ system. On November 24, an exhibition of World War II relics was opened in the Museum. General-Lieutenant A. A. Blagonravov, President of the Academy of Artillery Sciences, member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, visited it and gave high praise to the Museum’s activities. He noticed much attention to the museum’s expositions from the military services, veterans of World War II and all citizens of the USSR, which is a reward for the selfless work of Museum employees who preserved all of the rich Museum values during the war. The Museum also increased its historic monuments by collecting relics, rarities and trophies on the front lines, restoring expositions after the evacuation and creating unique new complex expositions.
A positive consequence of including the Historical Museum of Artillery in the Academy of Artillery Sciences was the approval of a new list of established posts and Regulations for the Museum. This allowed problems of scientific exposition and scholarly research works to be settled in a more autonomic way, thus raising difficult scholarly and practical scientific questions. More thorough studies of the Museum collections started, in order to compile and publish special catalogues and scholarly inventories of the Museum objects, with systematizing and detailed descriptions. Researchers focused on problems of maintaining the exhibits and determining optimal conditions for each level. While systematizing the objects a necessity to complete some collections was revealed, along with identifying appropriate variants for making displays. Documents from the Museum archive and the historical collections were included in active scholarly operation. Much scholarly and scientific research work was realized under the instruction of the Academy of Artillery Sciences. Thus, from 1948 the Academy began publishing multiple-volume works on the history of Russian artillery and employees of the Historical Museum of Artillery were assigned to work on a number of selected topics.
At the same time the Museum was defined as purely artillery-oriented. In this connection the Museum lost a considerable number of historical exhibits. In accordance with substantiating the Academy of Artillery Sciences, the Minister of the Armed Forces of the USSR sanctioned transferring the colors collection to the Hermitage and all property of the former Quartermaster Museum to the Main Quartermaster Administration. After that, a collection of portraits and busts of members of the Romanov family, many things connected with the history of military medicine and sanitation, the former Emperor’s collection of uniforms and equipment, headdresses, drawings, and three thousand items from the Suvorov collection, as well as a collection of religious objects, etc. were handed over to different institutions.
In 1963, the Historical Museum of Artillery merged with the Central Historical Museum of Military Engineers which was one of the oldest military museums founded in 1855. For more than a hundred years of its independent existence the Museum had collected precious monuments on the history of Engineers: models of fortification constructions, bridges and means of transfer, including models and relief maps of individual battles, entrenching tools, a collection of wire cutters (the most complete in the world), mine clearing devices, optical devices and other things from the Engineers’ armament. Also, it included a wonderful collection of battle paintings and military portraits, personal belongings of representatives of the Emperor’s House and the military Engineers, along with documentary evidence of the history of military-engineering.
In 1965, the Artillery Museum merged with the Museum of Signal Corps. Among valuable exhibits dedicated to history of military communication is the first electric magnetic telegraph set in the world, which was invented by Russian scientist P. L. Schilling in 1832. Also, the first radio set in the world demonstrated by A. S. Popov in 1895, as well as a typewriting telegraph set of Baudot that was used to send the act of unconditional surrender from Fascist Germany to Moscow in 1945.
|Central Museum gates|
In 1991, the Museum took in the exhibits from M. I. Kutuzov’s Memorial House which was located in the city of Boleslawiec (Bunzlau). In addition to items of general history, the collection from Kutuzov’s house includes personal belongings of the commander which he used in campaigns, gifts from residents of the cities liberated from the Napoleon Army and furniture from the last refuge of the Field-Marshal.
The Military-Historical Museum of Engineer and Signal Corps is now one of the most significant military-historical museums in the world having precious collections of artillery armaments and ammunition, rifles and cold steels, military-engineering equipment, signal means, combat banners, military uniforms, battle artworks, various insignia, as well as archival documents giving evidences of Russian artillery development history and feats of arms. The Museum holds impressive collections of paintings, drawings and sculptures. Amongst exhibits are works of art reflecting Russia’s heroic past, portraits of Emperors, Grand Dukes, famed commanders, plus soldiers and officers who distinguished themselves in military operations. The Museum rooms are decorated with canvases by well-known Russian battle-artists B. Villevalde, N. DmitrievOrenburgskii, A. Charlemagne, A. Safonov, P. Kovalevskii, F. Raubaud, A. Popov, N. Samokish and M. Grekov.
|Central Museum gates|
The Museum collection occupies 13 rooms with a total area of over 17,000 square meters and 850,000 exhibits. Many of them are undoubtedly monuments of science, technique, art, and a part of Russian cultural heritage. These include, for example, the oldest specimens of Russian artillery from the 14th–16th centuries — Ustiug metal pishchals; the first dated bronze cannons made by master Jacob in the late 15th century; and Russian rifle arms of the 16th–17th centuries which far outstripped Western samples of this kind. The inventions of designers of the 19th — early 20th century, such as A. P. Engelgardt, N. B. Maievskii, V. S. Baranovski, A. I. Plestsov, S. I. Mosin and V. G. Fedorov were an invaluable contribution in the development of Russian technique. The Museum holds the first recoilless systems in the world by L. V. Kurchevskii (1920–1930’s), whose principles were used by Germans and Americans only in the 1940’s. There is also a great collection of rifles and cold steels, including a samples of arms designed by M. T. Kalashnikov.
The Museum rarities include a ceremonial kettledrum chariot for carrying the colors of the artillery, small cannons of the poteshnyi regiments of boys-soldiers under Peter I, military awards of Russian Emperors, gifts to regiments of the Russian Army, artistically designed silverware and goods made of crystal, including those produced by the Faberge Company, personal arms of Alexander I, Nicholas II, Ottoman Platov, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshal J. Murat, Russian and Soviet military commanders.
Visitors are particularly interested in the Museum’s outdoor display (Esplanade) opened after reconstruction in 2002. Its collection is located in the internal courtyard of Kronwerk on a square of more than two hectares. It has been gathered for more than a half century (since the 1950’s) with much assistance from the Main Rocket-Artillery Administration. The outdoor display forms a united artistic-architecture ensemble with the Kronwerk building. It is unique in its completeness and historical importance. More than 250 units of artillery and rocket launch systems, military engineering and signal equipment are on display on open platforms. It includes Russian and foreign artillery units, both ancient and the most contemporary ones: self-propelled, towed and antiaircraft artillery units, including those that use nuclear ammunition.
One branch of the Museum is still being formed, the Museum of History of Russian Military Schools (Cadet Corps). It is situated in the historical center of St. Petersburg in the building of the Malta Chapel constructed by outstanding architect Giacomo Quarenghi in 1800. It is being included in the ensemble of buildings of the Vorontsov Palace, where previously the Page Corps of His Imperial Majesty was located. The Museum’s exhibition will describe the history of military schools in Russia up to 1917, military schools of Russian emigration, the Nakhimov Naval School and the Suvorov Military School of the Soviet period, as well as the military schools that are being created now.
The Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps is located on the territory of Kronwerk, a memorable place of Petrovian St. Petersburg. Kronwerk was originally designed as fortifying system element for the St. Petersburg fortress. Starting in the mid 19th century, it existed and developed as an independent element of city-planning along the Neva. Unfortunately, the historical destiny of Kronwerk is less well-known than the creation and development of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress.
Kronwerk (from German — “fortification in the form of a crown”) was constructed as a supplementary wood-earth fortification for the St. Petersburg fortress from the land side in 1705–1708.
|Eastern wing of the Kronwerk, where the Museum had been located since 1868|
It was intended to protect the fortress from the North in case of a possible attack by Swedes. Kronwerk was reconstructed and fortified time and again during the 18th century. The fortification history of Kronwerk is connected with the names of prominent military and state workers of the 18th century — Peter the Great, General Feldzeugmeister Count B.Ch. Minich, prince Ludwig of Gessen and Gomburg, Count P. I. Shuvalov, engineer General-Major A. P. Ganniball and many others.
Kronwerk had lost its fortification significance, however, by the end of the 18th century. In 1796, an Artillery Park was constructed on its territory. It consisted of a shed made of planks and a fenced yard, as well as a wooden engineering house on a stone foundation. Restoration works started at Kronwerk by the order of Emperor Paul I in 1797. A project was approved for “the resumption of old Kronwerk” and the fortifications were restored to a proper state within two years. On January 9, 1800, Emperor Paul I visited Kronwerk. In 1801, a stone guardroom and powder storehouse building project was started. Likewise, a pontoon bridge was constructed across the Kronwerk channel for communication with the St. Petersburg fortress.
On January 31, 1805, according to a decree of Emperor Alexander I, Kronwerk was passed for outward constructions; the stone guardroom, artillery buildings and a stone cellar under the jurisdiction of the Civil Shipyard attached to the Ministry of Commerce. Kronwerk was ordered to be kept “clean and [to] make all necessary repairs,” not to change the fortification plan and the construction profile. All artillery property was handed over to the Peter-and-Paul Fortress and all powder to a laboratory. The older structures were destroyed because of “rottenness of their walls, roofs and floors.”
In June 1808, the Ministry of Commerce opened a shipbuilding and navigation college at Kronwerk. Children of the Civil Shipyard employees and boarders from merchant families were admitted there. Kronwerk bastions were leased to all who wished to make hay. In 1810, military-orphanage divisions, transferred from the military hospital, were arranged on the territory of glacis.
In the early morning of July 13, 1826, after undergoing an act of civil punishment, several Decembrists M. P. Bestuzhev-Riumin, P. G. Kakhovskii, S. I. MuraviovApostol, P. I. Pestel and K. F. Ryleev, Russian noble revolutionaries who undertook a revolt in December 1825 against autocracy and serfdom, were hanged on the territory of Kronwerk.
By a proposal of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1829, a plan was made to construct a magnetic observatory on the territory of Kronwerk for researching magnetic phenomena in nature. This construction, however, was never realized.
In 1842, a city water resort (a mineral water institution) was arranged on the territory of glacis. In 1844, the Aleksandrovskii Park (in honor of St. Aleksandr Nevsky) started to be laid out and was opened on August 30, 1845.
The decision about constructing Kronwerk in stone was made in connection with a wave of revolutions in Europe in 1848. In addition to other measures, fortresses which had been constructed in Kiev, Sebastopol, Ismail, Bobruisk, Dinaburg and, first of all, in the capital of the Russian Empire, St. Petersburg, had to prevent the spreading of "revolutionary infection."
On March 18, 1849, Emperor Nicholas I approved a stone project for a two-storeyed arsenal at Kronwerk. The project was signed by Minister of War A. I. Chernyshev, General of the Engineers, I. I. Den, inspector of the Engineering Department, General-Lieutenant A. I. Feldman, Director of the Engineering Department, General-Major K. F. Postelie, chief of the Drawing Office at the Engineering Department, Colonel of the Engineers I. F. Jokish, head of the works, and collegial assessor P. I. Tamanskii, architect from the Engineering Department.
On August 21, 1851, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the official accession of Nicholas I to the throne, the laying of the foundation-stone took place. A brass gilded plate with an inscription and coins of each denomination of that year were also laid.
The same year, the foundation was filled with rubble and a granite plinth of Arsenal was depicted. The building was constructed with bricks and plates from the Putilov plant. The walls of the middle part were erected by 1853, and the left wing in 1854. An embankment road was built along the Northern bank of the Kronwerk channel.
Nicholas I visited construction in late 1853, and was content with the majestic look of the building fortress which he ordered to be called the "New Arsenal at Kronwerk." The Emperor officially thanked all builders and ordered 50 kopecks in silver to be given to the workers.
In connection with the start of the Crimean (Oriental) War, the St. Petersburg fortress and Kronwerk were put into war readiness by the order of Nicholas I. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was assigned responsibility for supervising the works. 41 cannons of 24 and 18‑pound caliber were placed at Kronwerk. Rooms for soldiers were arranged on the ground floor of the Arsenal. Powder cellars, ramparts and brustwehrs were corrected and bridge entrances were covered with stockades. A wooden non-draw bridge was arranged for communication with the St. Petersburg fortress. At the same time, construction work on the Arsenal was not stopped. New gates were erected at Kronwerk from 1853–1855. Construction of the Arsenal was finished in 1860.
On a plan or from the outside, the building looks like a huge ravelin in the form of horseshoe with embrasures and gun-slots: loopholes for two-tiered artillery firing and gun-slots for booming. The length of the Arsenal along the axis is 472 meters. Walls of the external facade reach a thickness of 1.8 meters and those of the internal facade are of 1.3 meters.
The internal premises of the Kronwerk Arsenal are decorated in pseudo-Gothic style. The internal layout and architectural design of the building are different. High halls of the 3rd floor are of regular architecture, though they are richly decorated with compound plaster and stucco moulding. The connecting boxes in the staircase zones are metal-barred. The upper and lower floors form galleries and the middle floor is an attic.
Above the main entrance to the building is a cast-iron plate with an inscription: “The works were under the control of General-Adjutant Feldman and realized by Colonel Jokish.” Above the arch of the Eastern wing is an emblem of the Russian Empire and cast-iron plates with the years of the building construction: "1850–1860." Above the dates are bronze monograms of Emperors Nicholas I and Alexander II.
The main entrance to the building is opened with an artistically decorated vestibule and an apparel staircase (i.e. with a ramp) intended for lifting pieces of ordnance. The ramp consists of two sloping staircases which meet in a semicircle on the ground before the entrance to the third floor. Sometimes it is called Zolotaia Gorka [Golden Hill]. This name appeared in connection with the magnificent decoration of the staircase during a celebration of the 500‑year anniversary of the Russian artillery in 1889.
The building of the Arsenal lost its fortifying significance during construction. This was caused by the invention of rifled artillery, the development scientific warfare and by new forms of fighting.
In December 1860, Emperor Alexander II, with Grand Dukes Nikolai Nikolaevich and Mikhail Nikolaevich, visited the new building and ordered it to be transferred under the jurisdiction of the Main Artillery Administration. Starting on January 6, 1861, the Museum started to carry cannons, different arms and other military equipment by ice on the Neva. The building realized its function as an Arsenal until 1941.
By the end of 1861, the work of erecting a wall to close the yard from the South had been finished. In addition, some structures were attached to it for a workshop and a provisions storehouse. The bed of the Kronwerk channel was deepened to 1.8 meters below the normal level. A granite landing stage with a turning crane that could hoist up to 25 tons was arranged before the main gate. Cast-iron railings with lanterns on pillars were erected along the channel from the external corners of the building.
In 1862, construction of a new stone 12‑span bridge (with one drawing span) started, to replace the old one on rafts which united the St. Petersburg fortress and Kronwerk. It was a project by Colonel of the Engineers Alekseevskii. The bridge united the right front of the bastion of Anna Ioannovna with the right wing of the New Arsenal and was closed to free passage. The bridge was used for moving heavy armaments to the territory of Kronwerk. The bridge existed until the 1910’s.
In 1865, a railroad way was arranged around the courtyard of the Arsenal for transporting cannons and other arms. Its fragments have been kept to the current day.
The Arsenal at Kronwerk is a unique monument of military architecture of the mid19th century. Due to the large number of different gates and doors on the upper and lower storeys, huge supplies of arms kept inside could be brought out within 24 hours.
As stated above, since 1868 a part of the building on the lower and attic floors in the East wing was provided for placing military-historical monuments which had been kept previously at the Arsenal on Liteinyi Prospekt.
Since 2000, archaeological research has been carried out on the territory of Kronwerk. During the excavations, remains of dugouts and mass graves for the first builders and defenders of St. Petersburg were located. A few large settlements of the Novgorod and Moscovian periods of development of the Neva River area were also found in the lower layers of the territory, which had been called Fomin Island in the 15th–16th centuries. Large noble estates (myzy) as well as a few farmsteads were located on the island during the Swedish period in the 17th century. Recent archaeological excavations reveal the many-centuries history of this location, starting not only from Nyen and Nyenskans, but also from the earlier pre-Swedish period. Such archaeological findings have not been made on the territory of St. Petersburg until nowadays.
The Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps became one of the most significant military-historical museums in the world for its more than 300‑year history, a subject of national pride for Russia. It is a real temple of Russian military history, a "division of eternity" within the Russian Armed Forces, as it is rightfully called. Its doors are always open to visitors who can expect to find an exciting meeting with the military history of Russia and of other countries of the world.