The exhibition presents museum items whose life has been repeatedly extended by museum restorers.
First and foremost, there are banners and standards. It was with work on them that the history of the restoration of fabrics in the Hermitage began. There are also tapestries and decorative embroideries, church vestments, civilian and military dress, and also the memorial clothing of Russian rulers. Separate interest is paid within the exhibition to the history of the conservation of archaeological fabrics.
The choice of exhibits for display was determined not so much by their uniqueness and high artistic quality, as by the opportunity to demonstrate clearly how difficult restoration tasks are tackled and how the approach to the conservation of articles itself gradually changed, which methods remain relevant and which new tendencies predominate today.
Some of the exhibits have their own unique restoration history. Peter the Great’s ceremonial costume, made for the coronation of his wife Catherine as empress-consort and put on the wax figure of the Emperor after his death, and the uniform that Peter wore at the Battle of Poltava are Russian national relics that became museum exhibits as far back as the 18th century. They have been repeatedly restored, which made it possible to extend their display life. The Dutchwoman doll (“landlady of the little house at Saardam” – where Peter lived while learning to build ships) that was presented to Emperor Alexander I was conserved at first by the method of pasted-on backings, then 30 years later the restoration materials had aged and were removed and a fundamentally different method of restoration was employed.
The coat and breeches raised by archaeologists from the merchant vessel Erzengel Raphael that sank in the Baltic in 1724 are ordinary articles of Western European dress from the early 18th century, but the story of their restoration is unique and of interest not only to specialists.