They Arrived Completely Intact: The Evacuation of Chersonese Museum Collections to Sverdlovsk
This article considers the emergency evacuation of the collections of the Chersonese Historical and Archaeological Museum from Sevastopol to Sverdlovsk during the Great Patriotic War, between September and December 1941. The authors analyse some issues concerning the preparation and transportation of the museum collection and the interaction between state structures and cultural institutions in wartime conditions. The study is based on unpublished archival materials from the funds of the State Archive of Sverdlovsk Region and the Documentation Centre of Public Organisations of Sverdlovsk Region. The study of problems connected with saving cultural heritage during military conflicts is relevant considering the threat of local wars in the modern world. At present, military actions pose serious risks of the destruction, damage, and illicit transfer of museum exhibits. The authors employ the historical and anthropological approach, paying a great deal of attention to the historiography of the issue of cultural heritage preservation during the Great Patriotic War. The experience of evacuating heritage collections from the Chersonese Museum is both unique and typical. One hundred and eight crates of artifacts, books, and archival documents were sent from Sevastopol to Sverdlovsk, accompanied by a single employee of the museum, S. F. Strzelecki. Owing to his effort, the priceless collection was successfully delivered to the rear. Most problems faced during the emergency evacuation of the Chersonese collections related to the deficit of material resources, rapid changes in the situation at the front, inefficient interaction between the bodies of power, academic and cultural institutions, and deficiencies in the transportation system. The authors argue that during the early stages of the Great Patriotic War, the conditions in the military and cultural spheres posed a significant threat to the preservation of cultural heritage. There were no mobilisation plans for museums and the authorities failed to assess the real risks of wartime. Taking these factors into account should help diminish the threat of cultural heritage loss during military conflicts.
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