Saint-Petersburg State University
Faculty of Biology

Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Rus | Eng

History of the Museum of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology

There is a study museum at the Department of Invertebrate Zoology (former Zootomical Kabinet*), which was started back in 1833–1861 at the times of Stepan Semyonovich Kutorga (1806–1861), the zoology and Zootomical professor at the Imperial Saint-Petersburg University. These collections were expanded by his student and successor professor Karl Fedorovich Kessler (1815–1881), who led the Zoology department in 1862-1888 and in 1971 divided it into Zoological and Zootomical Kabinets (later – Vertebrate and Invertebrate Zoology departments, respectively). The significant invertebrates collections to initiate the real museum came primarily from the Mediterranean, as the university’s staff and students made trips to Italy. They attended the Napoli Zoological Station founded there by the German zoologist Anton Dorn. The museum’s collection kept on growing at the newly-created Zootomical Kabinet with its first head, professor Nikolay Petrovich Vagner (1829–1907) invited from Kazan University. Apart from Mediterranean fauna the museum gradually acquired collections from the White, Barents, Baltic, Caspian, Black and Red seas. The invertebrate fauna from the Northern, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as various fresh-water and land inhabitants from a number of Old and New World locations were also represented. The collections were mainly gifted or sometimes sold to the Zootomical Kabinet by people such as F.V. Ovsyannikov, A.O. Kovalevsky, M.M. Usov, I.I. Mechnikov, F.F. Yarzhinsky, K.S. Merezhkivsky, O.A. Grimm, V.D. Alenitsyn, N.P. Vagner, A.A. Korotnev, V.M. Shimkevich and other. In this way the vast collection of tropical molluscs’ shells was given to the museum by a will of the Yaroslav’s archbishop Nil. Museum

Vladimir Timofeevich Shevyakov (1859–1930) was a head of Zootomical Kabinet in years 1896 through 1911. He played special role in the departmental museum’s development and primarily in the creation of a special demonstration collection used in classes. Shevyakov ordered special museum’s shelves and showcases, purchased a number of valuable exhibits abroad and made an unique collection in invertebrate anatomy and microscopic mounts of protists and small metazoans. It was at his times that museum acquired its appearance and organization that are preserved at the department until today. In the end of the 19th and in the beginning oŕ ó 20th century the Kabinet’s museum was contributed to by staff and studentsa such as M.N. Knipovich, D.D. Pedashenko, M.N. Rimsky-Korsakov, P.P. Ivanov, V.A. Dogiel and others.

In Soviet times the museum’s collection kept oň growing due to the material brought by students and staff from their field trips. During the Second World War and the Leningrad Blockade all the museum’s wealth was preserved by a selfless department’s lab assistant Alexandra Mikhailovna Alexandrova. Upon the end of the war many valuable exhibits were handed over to the museum by the staff member Vladimir Lvovich Vagin who was took part in a few Arctic expedition. The collections of tropical invertebrates came to the museum from the professor Artemiy Vasilievich Ivanov and later from Donat Vladimirovich Naumov (the head of the Zoological Museum AS USSR) who contributed a valuable collection of madreporarian corals and tropical molluscs’ shells.

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Currently there are more than 3,000 exhibits on display arranged in about 40 various showcases. There also are photo&text posters telling about the department’s history and its two most famous heads – V.T. Shevyakov and V.A. Dogiel as well as a memorial plate with the names of staff and students who became the members of Russian Academy of Sciences, Medical Academy and Pedagogical Academy.

You are most welcome to pay us a visit and have your own look at the museum’s unique collection.

S.I. Fokin

* Kabinet is what they used to call a university division at the level just below the department back in 19th century Russia. As no exact English translation exists (something like a lab or division, but not quite) and in order to retain the authentic sense, we shall keep the Russian word (given in parenthesis).
Zoological Kabinet is what later gave rise to Vertebrate Zoology department, while modern Invertebrate Zoology department used to be called Zootomical Kabinet.

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