Department of Western European Art
This has been the largest and most important section of the Hermitage collection from the time of Catherine the Great's first purchases onwards. It acquired its present name after the fine and decorative arts collections were combined in 1930 and curates 7,869 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, more than 525,000 prints and drawings, and 60,000 examples of the decorative arts, including silver, porcelain and furniture. Among the most famous features of the department are the Rembrandts (more than 20 works) and the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pictures - including Picasso and Matisse - from the former Shchukin and Morosov collections. There are also paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Giorgione among other Italian masters, a superb collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings and the best collection of French art outside the Louvre.
The first new department to be created after the Revolution, it was established in 1920, under the direction of the future Museum director, Iosif Orbeli. Exhibits were gathered from institutions all over Russia representing the cultures of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Byzantium, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, China, Japan and India. The Sassanian silver collection is world famous, as are the collections of Coptic textiles and Persian carpets. The scholarly publications of the department have won it a world wide reputation.
Department of Russian Culture
Opened in 1941, this department curates Russian works of art from the 6th to the 20th centuries. It has portrait paintings and views associated with the imperial family and their palaces. (The Russian Museum contains St Petersburg's main collection of Russian painting.) There are superb products of the Imperial Porcelain, Glass and Tapestry Factories. The costume collection runs to tens of thousands of items, including clothes worn by the imperial family from the 18th century onwards. An unique feature of the collection is steel furniture made at the arms factories of Tula in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Department of the Ancient World
This department curates art and artefacts from the Greek and Roman civilisations and has formed a major section of the Museum since it first opened to the public in 1852. Peter the Great and Catherine both bought important antique sculpture. From the early 19th century, excavations of Greek settlements around the Black Sea area yielded jewellery and vases and, together with the purchase of Greek vases from the Campana collection in 1862, have ensured that the Museum has a superlative collection.
Department of the Archaeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia
Founded in 1931, the department has organised archaeological excavations all over Russia and the former republics and curates finds dating from Palaeolithic times up to the Bronze and early Iron Ages. Its special treasures include the so-called 'Siberian Collection of Peter the Great', magnificent gold and silverware of the Scythian and Samartian civilisations, and the rich, 5th-7th century BC textiles, felt, leather, furs, elegantly carved wooden artefacts and even tattooed human skin, found in tombs in the high Altai mountains, whose contents were uniquely preserved by permafrost.
Catherine the Great was a keen collector of coins and medals and her extensive collection is the foundation of the present collection. The department now owns over a million items which represent one of the world's largest collections in the field. It ranges across Antique, Western European, Russian and Oriental items.
Contemporary Art Department
Established in 2012, this department was a special initiative by the Director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. It started out on an experimental basis in 2007 as the 20/21 Project, with Dimitri Ozerkov, Curator of French prints, in charge. After several successful exhibitions, notably Newspeak. Contemporary British Art from the Saatchi Collection and Anthony Gormley's Still Standing: A Contemporary Intervention in the Classical Collections, it was decided to make contemporary art a permanent feature of the Museum.
Nicholas I was a passionate collector of antiquarian arms and armour which he kept in a special pavilion in the park of Tsarskoe Selo. In 1885 his collection was transferred to the Hermitage and combined with the collection of Alexander Petrovich Basilevsky, recently purchased in Paris, to form one of the most important collections in the world. There are works of European, Russian and Oriental workmanship, as well as a group of magnificent Colt pistols from America made for presentation to Nicholas I and his sons.
The library began with an accumulation of books acquired by Catherine the Great, a voracious reader, and now contains more than 600,000 volumes in Russian as well as in other European and Oriental languages. In addition to the best art reference library in the country there is a Rare Books and Manuscripts Room, containing some 10,000 items, including a collection of book bindings and many rare periodicals.
All aspects of the Hermitage's activity are documented in the archives. There are documents relating to the imperial Hermitage from 1767 onwards as well as State Hermitage papers from 1917 to the present day. There are over 24,000 items relating to acquisitions, staff appointments, restoration work and archaeological digs.
This department was founded in 1925 and has close links to the St Petersburg school system. The School Centre runs a drawing workshop for 5 to 10 year olds, 46 study groups and 2 clubs - the Young Archaeologists' Club and the Art Lovers' Club. Children can join the Hermitage archaeological digs and take part in their own annual exhibition, 'We draw in the Hermitage'. The department runs evening classes for adults and university students which are attended by more than 6,000 people a year, as well as organising a three-year university course in the history of fine art. The staff conduct between 24,000 and 26,000 guided tours of the Hermitage every year and give some 800 lectures, some in the Hermitage itself and some in lecture halls in other parts of the city. The department writes its own guidebooks and brochures, as well as preparing audio guides, videos and CD Roms.