The Department of Written Sources (DWS) is one of the richest departments in the State Historical Museum. The collection contains over 15 million sheets of unique documentaries on the Russian history of the 16th-20th centuries. The particularity of this material lies in the fact that it is a component both of Archive Found and Museum Found of Russian Federation.
The year 1912 can be easily considered as the year of birth of the DWS because just then in the Historical Museum was opened the Historical and Cultural Materials Archive Department that got its contemporary title only in 1938.
In different times a number of qualified specialists, archivists, historians and philologists worked and works now in the Department. Among them there were: SHM academic secretary, famous bibliographer and historian of Russian culture and literature Ivan Memnonovich Tarabrin; theorist of literature, writer, specialist in foreign manuscripts and autographs Olga Ivanovna Popova; brilliant archivists and historians who worked for years at the Russian Public Archive for Ancient Records and in the Department of manuscripts of the National Library named after V.I. Lenin (currently titled Russian National Library- RNL) Sofia Ivanovna Sakovich, Sofia Pavlovna Grigorova-Zakharova, Ita Izrailevna Kogan; daughter of famous cartographer and archaeographer I.A. Golubtsov, student of Academician M.N. Tikhomirov Elena Ivanovna Samgina; Doctor of Historical Sciences, honoured RSFSR worker of science prof. Pavel Grigoryevich Ryndzyunsky, and famous Decembrism historian, publicist and archivist Irina Sergeevna Kalantyrskaya.
Currently, the honoured RSFSR employee of culture Fedor Alexandrovich Petrov works successfully in the Department. He is a famous historian specialising in Russian history of the 19th century, author of many large monographs and publications, Doctor of Historical Sciences.
The DWS collections are conditionally divisible into four main groups:
• Personal archive founds and private collections in which is particularly remarkable the phenomenal documentaries collection of Petr Ivanovich Shchukin, distinguished Russian collector, merchant and hereditary honorary citizen (1853-1912). It was donated by Shchukin to the Russian Historical Museum in the early 20th century and now in all DWS collections runs about one-fifth. The collection of Prince Grigory Vladimirovich Orlov (1777-1826) is also unique (though by no means as comprehensive). It contains over 4 thousand autographs (letters, orders, rescripts and charters, etc.) of prominent monarchs, presidents, public officials, commanders, scientists, writers, composers, artists, poets and other persons who resided almost in all countries of Europe and America in the 15th-19th centuries.
• Thematic collections. In this group there are museum collection of nobility patents of the 16th-19th centuries, collection of materials on the history of Russian enlightenment, collection of documents connected with the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Russia, and many other relevant collections.
• Documentary collections of various institutions, scientific associations, museums, etc., among which we should primarily mention collection of the “Special Committee for establishment of the Moscow Museum of 1812 and museum collection of documents”, vast collections of never-opened museum “Ancient Moscow” and Museum of the Military History, and collection of Museum Department of “Glavnauka Narkomprosa” (Division of Education of People’s Comissariat) containing historical data on the museum’s construction in the first two decades of the Soviet government.
• Collection of documental materials gathered in the course of historical and cultural expeditions of the SHM. Here, what draws attention is an extensive and diverse collection of the Moscow historical and cultural expedition and interesting materials gathered in 1936-1937 by the SHM North-Caucasian historical and cultural expedition in Chechnya and Dagestan, containing documents of Imam Shamil addressed to naibs, kadhis and other officials of the Caucasian war period of 1817-1864. As museum objects the documentary exhibits of the DWS collection are an essential part of the SHM exposition and numerous exhibitions in Russia and abroad. At the same time, archive documents are used by the RF Academy of Sciences, the RF Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications, the RF Department of Education and Science, Moscow and Moscow Region engineering and restoration companies for scientific, cultural, educational, creative and productive purposes.
SHM visitors may use original documents in the reference room of the Written Sources Department. The user instructions for the Department documental collection must be observed without fail in these terms.
The DWS reference room is open for visitors.