The Armoury Chamber, a treasure-house, is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace's complex. It is situated in the building constructed in 1851 by architect Konstantin Ton. The museum collections were based on the precious items that had been preserved for centuries in the tsars' treasury and the Patriarch's vestry. Some of the exhibits were made in the Kremlin's workshops, others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts. The museum was named after one of the oldest Kremlin's treasury stores.
The Armoury Chamber preserves ancient state regalia, ceremonial tsar's vestments and coronation dress, vestments of the Russian Orthodox Church's hierarchs, the largest collection of gold and silverware by Russian craftsmen, West European artistic silver, ceremonial weapons and arms, carriages, horse ceremonial harness.
The State Armoury presents more than four thousands items of applied art of Russia, European and Eastern countries of the 4th - early 20th centuries. The highest artistic level and particular historical and cultural value of the exhibits have made the State Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin a world-wide known museum.
The date of the museum's foundation originates from March, 10, 1806. That day Emperor Alexander I signed a decree "On rules of administration and preservation of valuables of the Workshop and Armoury Chamber", which accomplished the process of the royal depositories' transformation into a museum, started by Peter the Great. The same year on the place of the Trinity Court, upon the project of architect I. Egotov, construction of a special museum building was started. Having been constructed in the classical style, the building of the Armoury Chamber successfully completed the ensemble of the Senate Square. The concept, forming of the staff and carrying out of the basic activity for the museum’s creation was realized under the supervision of secret councilor P. Valuev. By 1810, the construction work was completed. However, it was not possible to open a museum in the new building. In June, 1812, the Napoleon army invaded Russia as well as Moscow. The Imperial treasury has been transferred to the city of Nizhniy Novgorod.
Exhibits were safely returned to Moscow by summer 1813, and in 1816 the first museum exposition was open for visitors through the efforts of the outstanding statesman, senator and patron of arts N. Yusupov. Two-storied building of the Armoury Chamber includes the archives, depository and model of the palace - the unrealized project, executed by V. Bazhenov for Catherine II. The main exposition was placed on the second floor, consisting of the state regalia collection, the exposure complex of the "crowns of the conquered reigns" (Crowns of Kazan, of Siberian, etc.), ambassadorial gifts and armoury collection (swords, shields, armours, flags).
According to the highest Decree of Emperor Nicholas I, on August, 22, 1831, the name of the museum was changed to "The Moscow Armoury Chamber". In 1838-1851, a new palace complex in "national Russian" style was erected in the Kremlin on the project of K. Ton. It included the Grand Kremlin Palace, building of Apartments and more convenient and gorgeous building of the museum - the Moscow Armoury Chamber. In 1858, the Rules on management of the Moscow Armoury Chamber, were authorized.
In 1851, the new building of the Armoury Chamber, nowadays housing the museum, was constructed under the project of architect K.A. Ton. In 1858, Rules on management of the Moscow Armoury Chamber, constant in the basis till 1917, were authorized. In 1852 the museum exposition was placed in the new building of the Armoury Chamber, which became the representational constituent of the whole Grand Kremlin Palace's complex as the Imperial treasure-house.
Curators of the museum were responsible for the condition and preservation of the museum collections. About ten years continued the work on scientific studying the museum exhibits and edition of the multivolume Inventory (1884-1893). The authority of employees of the Armoury Chamber among researchers was very high. A.E.Viktorov,G.D.Filimonov, А.М. Pavlinov, V.K. Trutovsky, A.I. Uspensky were members of the Imperial Moscow Archeological Society. V.K.Trutovsky was chairman of Moscow Numismatic Society.
The 1917 February Revolution caused rough interest of the public to the treasures of the Moscow Kremlin. Well-known historians and critics developed plans of transformation of the Kremlin into a city-museum. However, events of autumn 1917, transfer of the Soviet government to Moscow, the Civil war raised questions of a museum’s organization and preservation of valuables of the Moscow Kremlin in a new way.
During November fights in Moscow curators and employees of the museum who were in the building of the Armory Chamber, managed to save up treasures stored in it. In the early 20-s, the concept of the museum was changed as under new social and political circumstances the museum was to present the history of Russian and foreign decorative an applied art, to show work of imperial workshops, etc. Such restriction in the approach to the display of museum treasures might have been compelled, dictated aspiration of heads of the museum M.S. Sergeev and D.D. Ivanov to keep exhibits, attending attention not to their historical importance, but to the skill of execution.
In July, 1922, the museum except for the Armoury Chamber included the Assumption, Archangel’s, Annunciation Cathedrals, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe and the Patriarchal Chambers of the 17th century. So, the museum complex repeatedly changing the name and submission appeared in the Kremlin territory.
In the second half of 1929, the situation in the museum became extremely intense. Since 1 December 1929 Director of the museum D.D.Ivanov was taken off the job. On 13 January 1930 he died.
The 1930-s were tragic in the museum history. All leading research assistants took their discharge, and partly exposed to reprisals. In 1934 Deputy Director In Science V.K.Klein was arrested on the so-called “Kremlin case”. After D.D.Ivanov's leave, people without either formations or skill of museum work were appointed Directors one by one.
Research work in the was practically stopped. Access of tourists in the museum in the closed Kremlin territory became extremely limited. In the early 1938, the museum complex was transferred to the Administration Commandant Office of the Moscow Kremlin. The research work in the museum was practically stopped. Access of visitors was limited. In the early 1958, the museum complex was transferred to the Administration of the Commandant Service of the Moscow Kremlin.
In June, 1941 employees of the museum, with the active help of the Commandant of the Kremlin General N.K. Spiridonov, hastily packed and evacuated treasures of the Kremlin museum to Sverdlovsk. The museum items were brought back from evacuation on 20 February 1945 and in April the exposition of the Armoury Chamber was open first time after the War.
In summer 1955, the Moscow Kremlin accepted first tourists. Process of revival of the museum began. In the mid 50-s new expositions in the Armoury Chamber and cathedrals of the Kremlin were created, techniques of guiding were developed. The museum staff considerably increased.
On the Order of the Government of 5 February 1960 the Armoury Chamber and cathedrals of the Kremlin were transferred to conducting the Ministry of Culture of the USSR and received the new name - the State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin.
1970-80-s became time of rapid development of a museum in all the directions of activity. The end of 1970 and first half of the 1980-s were marked by carrying out the largest in the museum history research and restoration works both in cathedrals of the Kremlin and in the Armoury Chamber. In 1986 a new display of the Armoury Chamber was open, and in May 1987 the Museum of Applied Art and Life Style of 17th century Russia has appeared in the Patriarch’s Palace.
In October, 1991 the museum received the status of the Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site. The charter of The Federal Goverment Agency of The Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site was confirmed on 19 July 2001.
There the post of the General Director was established. In April 2001, Elena Gagarina was appointed the General Director.
The management of research, exhibition and methodical activity is assigned to the Science Director of the museum - Andrei Batalov (since 2010).