The material was created within the framework of the "Life of War" project with the support of the Public Interest Journalism Lab and the Institute of Humanities (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen).
Our team spoke with Oksana Chervonenko, the deputy director for scientific and museum work of the National Science and Natual History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, about its history and how it is recovering after the missile strike that occurred on October 10th.
Excursion in History
The building of the Natural History Museum used to be the Olga Gymnasium. It was constructed as a large new building of this gymnasium, I think, starting in 1914, and the construction continued until 1954.
The building was designed and built by Academician Pavlo Alyoshin, a well-known Kyiv architect who created an entire quarter here: not only the museum but also the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences — this is the Great Conference Hall of the National Academy of Sciences (the side facade with columns on Volodymyrska St., 55 — HK), Institute of Zoology, Institute of Botany (building at Tereshchenkivska St., 2 — HK), as well as the Pedagogical Museum (the Teacher's House now). Alyoshin worked on this building all his life. Its opening was prevented by the revolution, then the First World War, then the civil war, or rather it was opened, but it worked for a short time.
The building was designed so that the vast majority of the rooms were classrooms, which is why it is so monotonous. There is a central corridor, with small classes on one side and large ones — on the other side, quite famous teachers even lived here. At that time, building such a gymnasium was an imperial idea, which speaks of its significance.
After the Academy of Sciences was established in 1918, the institutes of the Academy of Sciences were located here, they existed until 1965. Subsequently, a decision was made to create a Natural History Museum, and at that time, all these institutions were moved to different buildings in Kyiv, and four floors were given over to the museum.
The museum itself was opened in 1966, but its collections date back to the 18th century: it houses the old collections of the society of naturalists from the 18th-19th century and individual personal collections of naturalists and researchers.
Academician Ivan Pidoplichko and correspondent member Mykola Shcherbak worked on the exhibition, which opened in 1966; they formed a powerful team of scientists who created the museum concept.
Artists were invited to draw up the artistic concept, in particular Iryna Khoroshunova, a native resident of Kyiv and a very famous artist, who actually turned the scientific exhibition into a highly artistic one. There were also outstanding animal artists, in particular Gennady Glikman, who created many dioramas. There were orders of the paleographic paintings by dozens of artists, including Fedir Krychevskyi and Ivan Yizhakevich (the only Ukrainian artist represented in the Louvre). In our exhibitions, the hands of these artists depict scenes from the evolution of life, something that can only be reproduced in natural prints.
Oksana Chervonenko About the Day of the Missile Attack
At 8:30, there was an explosion. During the missile attack, there was a security guard and a cleaner, and I arrived 15 minutes later. According to the protocol, the guard called me and told me that there had been an explosion and that we had lost all the windows on the side where the blast wave was.
He said that the explosion was so powerful that the cleaning lady fell from the shaking of the building, and he sent a video from surveillance cameras. In the video, it does not seem that the explosion was so powerful, but all the windows were blown out (in total, 63 windows facing the yard were damaged - HK). The building has huge windows 3 meters high. I don't know when they were last glazed, but it seems to me that there was mostly still "native" glass from the opening when it was all glazed for the first time. On the side of the explosion, almost no glass was preserved — the windows were completely destroyed on the three floors where the departments of geology, zoology, and paleontology are located.
After the explosion, sometime in the evening, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Kateryna Chuyeva, called me and asked how we were doing and how they could help, and the very next day, they provided us with the first materials to do the initial preservation in the museum.
Dry Rage and the Help of Those Who Care
I formulated for myself a few months ago that we had already experienced and cried out. I feel nothing but hatred for those people who can do something like this in the middle of the city with old buildings, with what they wanted to get for themselves. But they destroy even that. The Bolsheviks did not do this when they came in 1918, they supported the museum, which was created under the UNR. The Germans did not do this. Yes, they took out many collections from here, which were later returned, although not all of them, but they did not destroy them.
And these people simply destroy, so I feel the same as the vast majority of Ukrainians. Only dry rage remained inside.
It seems to me that the fright has already passed, so the only thing I was afraid of was that our collection would not be damaged. Fortunately, it was almost undamaged, except for a few showcases. Still, the exhibits themselves were not damaged, and the large-format glass for the "Volcano" diorama broke into several pieces from the explosion wave, and we took it out.
But there was a problem with working hands because our museum facilities are not very large after all — mainly scientists and staff who serve visitors, and we were expected to do real repair work, so we had to find a resource. Our old friend, former deputy, and now philanthropist, academician Stanislav Dovhiy responded, and provided us invaluable help, making the first installment of 100 thousand hryvnias to close the museum for a week, and paid for the initial conservation work. So after a week, we closed all the windows.
We had workers who brought us a picaniska - a special lift for workers, because there is no access to the windows from inside the building, only from the outside. And the next weekend, we opened for visitors. That's the story. In addition, people helped us a lot. Without their financial and informational support, as well as physical help on a volunteer basis, the museum would not have been able to cope.
Our collection was left in the open air, and the collection cannot be left like that because moisture and temperature will destroy everything. While we have consultations with specialists and window manufacturers, the calculation of restoration costs continues.
Fundraising is still ongoing.
Museum charity account:
EDRPO code 19020229
Full name of the institution: National Science and Natual History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Purpose of payment: charitable donation
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