Unique Arctic museums

Everything is special in the Arctic. Even the local history museums are not like those in the European part of Russia.

20.08.21 // In Igarka, for example, tourists love to visit the permafrost museum. The local exhibition not only tells the story of the 503rd construction site in the region (a section of the Transpolar Railway) but is also located in very unusual interiors. You have to walk through corridors and halls covered in ice. And Kirovsk has a very interesting interactive geological museum.

Permafrost Museum in Igarka

The Permafrost Museum in Igarka, Krasnoyarsk Territory, is considered unique. A laboratory studying permafrost has operated on the site since 1936, and the first museum exhibition was opened in 1965.

The museum will surprise you even as you walk up to it. Imagine, all you see from the outside is a modest one-storey wooden house. 'And this is the whole museum I so badly wanted to visit?' — flashes through your mind. All doubts are dispelled as soon as you get inside. Most of the museum areas are underground, within the permafrost. You walk through the many corridors and halls covered in ice and you get rather cold.

The dungeons, which are now accessible to tourists, were built in the bleak 1930s and 1940s. It was around this time that the convicts were creating a railway line on the permafrost, the so-called Transpolar Railway, which Stalin had planned to run across the entire Russian north from Murmansk to Chukotka. A section of this highway, the 503rd construction site, passed right through here, in and around Igarka.

This difficult time, the Stalinist period in the development of Igarka, is also presented in the museum.

The Stone Museum in Kirovsk

'What could be original about a geological museum?' — one might ask. Indeed, most of these museums, built during the Soviet era and unchanged since then, will not be of interest to everyone. The Kirov Museum is an entirely different matter, with its modern lighting and sound system, and even an interactive component.

The collection is based on minerals from various parts of the Murmansk Region, beautifully displayed in showcases. There is also a collection of everyday objects from the Russian Empire.

To understand where the minerals in the Murmansk Region lie, we can take a look at an interactive screen. It highlights all the deposit locations with color coding. On other screens, you can see how the mining machinery works or 'fly' with a 3-D map over the Khibiny and Lovozersky tundra.

The history of Kirovsk can be explored on modern interactive screens. As you stand there reading scans of old documents and looking at nostalgic photographs in black and white, you are struck by how much more civilised and gentle the city has become since the 1930s and 1950s. It's like a different planet!

The building that houses the museum is also quite original. Thanks to the clock tower, it is probably the most famous building in Kirovsk and can be seen in the photographs of every tourist who stops by. Locals call it 'Big Ben.'

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