The Museum’s history starts in 1928 with the opening of the exhibition “The History of creation of St Isaac’s Cathedral “. The visitors could observe drawings, pictures, models, and building related records provided by the Leningrad Institute of Railway Transport Engineers, the Russian Museum, the Academy of Sciences and the Leningrad Central Archive, as well as portraits of architect A. Montferrand and painters K.P. Brullov, F.A. Bruni and P.V. Basin.
On April 12, 1931, St Isaac’s Cathedral was turned into the State Antireligious Museum with the world’s largest Foucault pendulum on display. In 1937, the Cathedral acquired the status of an architectural monument, and the Museum’s profile was changed to historical and artistic.
During the World War II and the Siege of Leningrad St Isaac’s was used to store the exhibits removed from the city’s museums and from the suburban palaces of Petrodvorets, Pavlovsk, Pushkin and Gatchina.
In 1945, in the aftermath of the war, along with the preparations for the Museum’s reopening, the renovation and restoration works had been started, and continued up to 1963. The Museum had reopened to the public in December, 1948.
In the post war period St Isaac’s Cathedral featured the following displays: “St Isaac’s Cathedral as Historic and Architectural Monument”, “The History of creation St Isaac’s Cathedral”, “On the Way from the Cathedral to a Museum”, and “The Foucault’s Pendulum”.
In January 1963, the Museum-Monument “St.Isaac’s Cathedral” became a branch of the State Museum of the History of Leningrad.
In 1968, Georgiy Petrovich Butikov was appointed as the director of this branch. A year later, given the special artistic value of St Isaac’s Cathedral and the unique nature of the Museum, the Ministry of Culture of RSFSR established it as an autonomous museum institution. Consequently, two more Leningrad’s cathedrals became part of the Museum: the Church of the Resurrection of Christ (the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood) in 1971, and the Cathedral honoring the venerable St Sampson the Hospitable in 1984. In the period from 1968 until 2002 the Museum’s activities were mainly guided by the concept of historically accurate and research-based restoration of the cathedrals of the Museum complex.
Georgiy Petrovich Butikov, PhD in Culturology, Professor, the author of over 40 scientific studies, including popular science, historical and artistic albums of St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of the Resurrection of Christ (the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood). He was awarded the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” IV class. He was a director of the State Museum-Monument “ St Isaac’s Cathedral” from 1968 until 2002.
The resumption of worship services in the cathedrals that are part of the Museum complex was one of the most significant events. In 1990, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All-Russia had fulfilled the Divine Liturgy at St Isaac’s Cathedral. This was the first service conducted in the cathedral since it ceased to function as an active church. A few years later, in 2005, “An Agreement between the State Museum-Monument “St Isaac’s Cathedral” and St Petersburg eparchy on joint operation on the Museum complex premises” was signed.
In 2002, Nikolay Viktorovich Nagorsky was appointed the director of the State Museum-Monument “St Isaac’s Cathedral”.
Nikolay Viktorovich Nagorsky, PhD in Education, wrote over 30 scholarly publications, including the monograph “Museum in the Spiritual Life of the Society”. He was awarded with the Order of Honour and the Russian Orthodox Church Order of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, a winner of the “St Petersburg Government’s Award in literature, arts and architecture field”, Honorary Cultural Worker of the Russian Federation. He was a director of the State Museum-Monument “ St Isaac’s Cathedral” from 2002 until 2008.
During this period new expositions, exhibitions and excursion programs were created, concerts of religious music were arranged, public and cultural events and scholarly forums held. Under the direction of N.V. Nagorsky the museum’s infrastructure was expanded, new information technologies introduced, the museum’s official web site was launched, the exterior lighting project for the Church of the Resurrection and the interior lighting project for St Isaac’s Cathedral were implemented, and new publishing projects were realized, including the publication of multimedia albums. Of particular importance in the Museum’s public education efforts is the project “From Museum to School”, developed in collaboration with the Research Institute of General Education at the Herzen Pedagogical University, in which teaching staff from St Petersburg schools, lyceums and gymnasiums is also involved.
In 2004, the State Museum-Monument “ St Isaac’s Cathedral” had expanded incorporating one more cultural monument – the Concert and Exhibition Hall “Smolny Cathedral”. After it had been modernized, and all the renovation and restoration works were completed, it emerged as a state-of-the art concert and exhibition hall that employed multimedia technologies. It had become the venue for the best Russian choirs, symphony orchestras, for concerts of chamber, violin, piano and cello music, as well as scientific conferences and cultural events.
In 2008, Nikolay Vitalievich Burov became the director of the State Museum – Monument “St Isaac’s Cathedral”. Under his direction modern technologies and methods of museology were introduced, and the innovative ways of educational work were developed that enabled to create a coherent system of historical and spiritual education for young people.
Nikolay Vitalievich Burov , PHd in business administration in the area of cultural management from the International Academy of Fundamental Studies, professor, National Artist (People’s Artist) of the Russian Federation. He was awarded with the Medal of Honor, medals of the Russian Federation, the Award of Sacred prince Vladimir of the III degree, and the Silver medal of Holy Apostle Peter of the Russian Orthodox Church, an Award of Merit for the Republic of Poland and an Honorary Badge of Service to St Petersburg. He is also an author of four monographs - «Museum and personality» (2009), «Pedagogical culturology of museum activity» (2009), «Art Pedagogics» (2011), and “The culture of creativity” (2014, co-author professor M.A.Ariarsky).
In compliance with the Federal law #327 “About transferring the property of religious designation, currently being in state or municipal ownership, to religious organizations”, on December 31, 2015, the Concert and Exhibition Hall “Smolny Cathedral” was transferred in gratuitous use to St Petersburg eparchy.