First Tolkien-only museum opens in Moscow

Museum of Tolkien fandom opens in Moscow with amazing trees of Valinor and life-size Ents. We have exclusive coverage of the Telperion and Laurelin sketches and are preparing an interview with key figures in Russian Tolkienology.

The Tolkien museum in Moscow has a unique position compared to other similar establishments abroad: it holds a history of several generations of Russian Tolkiendili, their dreams and their histories, in one place where anyone can visit them during exhibition times or other events held at the venue. More importantly still, this history is still alive.

One of the Ents, located to the both sides of the scene

School novel journal “The two towers”, through which Emma Mikheykina, the organizer, encountered Tolkien

Scientist Igor Khazanov talking to guests

Ira Allor's artwork with Taniquetil mountain

Guests of the opening of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom

Guests of the opening of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom listening to performances

Prologue

“I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers”.

(J. R. R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”, 1954; Foreword)

A. Introduction

Picture: Guests of the opening of Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom. In the background — the silver Telperion and Ira Allor's art

On April 20, 2019 guests gathered at the building of library No. 154 in Moscow Tsaritsino district, well known for its parks and train lines connecting the city to the Moscow area. Moscow Tolkien museum was officially pronounced open.

In a couple of days that had passed since then, the city seems to have gotten used to its new unique position of hosting the only museum in the world completely dedicated to Tolkien and his works (with the only possible exception of the Greisinger). It is dedicated to the history of Tolkienology in Russia and current projects in this area, as announced by the organizers.

The name in Russian, MMT, or “Moskovsky muzey tolkinistiki”, literally means Moscow museum of Tolkien studies, or Tolkienology, or Tolkien fandom, the name the organizers, or keepers of the museum, as they call themselves, have chosen. They are both very well known in the field. Olga Rudskaya, who is preparing “The tale of Beren and Lúthien”, a Tolkien-themed performance and horse-stunt riding musical, with the help of her KMR “Remmirath”; and Emma Mikheykina, owner of the “Prancing Dreadnote” bar, that until recently was home to the “Tolkien Thursdays” (another one of her projects for artists in the Tolkienology), which have now moved to the walls of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom along with the musical.

First of the “Tolkien Thursdays”, the “Hobbits' housewarming party”, took place in May this year, along with a “Tolk-club”, two seminars, and a minstrel evening. News about the events will appear in further articles on this website.

B. Unique idea

Picture: Map of Middle-earth in Russian

Moscow Museum of Tolkien fandom is the only museum in the world dedicated completely to J. R. R. Tolkien (knowledgeable opinions name the Greisinger among others). I believe there are several differences (see below). I believe hobbits would find it more like the place they used in Michel Delving for mathoms1 rather than any other in the word.

Moscow Tolkien museum is meant completely to be a meeting place for all Tolkien lovers in a homely atmosphere of well-known and familiar settings of the author's books, while also being a museum, a study centre, an exhibition, a workshop venue, an entertainment spot, a place for tabletop games, a Tolkien themed fair, and much more.

  1. A place for inspiration
  2. Both in brick and in thought, it inspires people from all parts of the country to connect, and send objects in related to Tolkien's works and the history of his legendarium in Russia and abroad, to meet not just online but in person, to sing songs and to write poetry. Even volunteers (who are largely responsible for furnishing the place, for the project is not only non-commercial, but a volunteer one) have regular meetings to carry on the work at the museum (for example, they are searching for volunteer caretakers to keep it open during more days of the week, other than just during performance times).

  3. Startup venue
  4. For me, it is a great place to start for all people inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien to create things, whether it's a poem, a song, a diadem, a book translation, a poster, an art object or installation, a movie or a lamp. This is where old friends and new acquaintances meet for a cup of tea and a nice talk.

  5. Talking spot
  6. A great spot to talk about all things Tolkien, the impressions, the favorite quotes, memorabilia, the trips, the history, the events, and the role-playing games. Live communication is always better, for it is mouthed that in the sunlight even trolls are nicer.

C. Are there any Tolkien museums in the world? 
Exclusive

Picture: Map of Middle-earth in English with perfumes, and school novel journal “The two towers”

When preparing the article, I was wondering whether there were any Tolkien museums in the world. And so I asked, a couple of people who are knowledgeable and well-informed on the subject.

Here's my post in “The Tolkien society” group on Facebook with most helpful answers, and further you'll see some quotes, and a list of suitable candidates with weblinks to their pages.

“There's the Greisinger, or Sarehole Mill (Birmingham) which has some displays about the local lad, other than that it is exhibitions in places like the Bodleian Library or Story Museum (both Oxford), or the Morgan Library (New York). But aside from the Greisinger there is no museum just about Tolkien.
[Edited to clarify the libraryness of the Bod etc].”

Ian L. Collier
(English writer, administrator of “The Tolkien Society” group on Facebook)

The Gresinger seems to me more like a reconstruction of the Hobbit homes and atmosphere, while the MMT plans and states as its purpose keeping the history of the Tolkien fandom in our country alive by collecting and keeping different objects, and books, and memorabilia, which the keepers then arrange carefully and with a lot of thought and care in a way that could be comfortable for guests to get acquainted with. And most importantly, it is a great place for events, and ideas, and talents from all things Tolkien (from art and illustrations to music and poetry and performances of all kinds and sorts).

It also hosts events, like the already well-known “Tolkien Thursdays” (from the famous but recently closed “Prancing Dreadnote” bar, although rumour has it, the place had previously been closed like a dozen times, except this time the organizers are not looking for a place to rent, instead they've come up with this new idea). Others include “Tolk-club”, preliminary on Tuesdays at 19:00, which has now been scheduled for this time for a second month in a row, minstrel performances, and seminars and workshops.

“Other than the exceptional collections of Tolkien's works at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Manuscript Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA — there are two places of interest that you might consider.

The Greisinger Museum in Jenins, Switzerland is a privately held museum collection that is the dream of multi-millionaire Bernd Greisinger. Go here for more information: http://www.greisinger.museum/

The other location is not so much a museum, although it does hold a number of singular artefacts. The Tolkien Shop in Leiden, the Netherlands is the only 'Brick and Mortar' Tolkien shop in the world and has been in business for over 30 years. René van Rossenberg helped establish the Dutch Tolkien Society in the same year he opened the shop, and both have been going and growing ever since2. Go here for more information: http://www.tolkienshop.com/

There are other impressive private collections, but these are the only ones I am aware of that are accessible to the public.”

Becky Dillon
(Senior Administrator for the News and Publications portion of the “International Tolkien Fellowship”)

And finally, here's a list of the museums, collections, study centers, and more. It seems like the Moscow Museum of Tolkien fandom is successfully doing a little bit of all things mentioned.

Other Tolkien museums and collections in the world
— The Greisinger Museum in Jenins (Switzerland).
— Sarehole Mill Museum in Birmingham (United Kingdom).
— Exhibitions at Story Museum in Oxford (United Kingdom).
— Exhibitions at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York (USA).
— Bodleian Library in Oxford (United Kingdom) — the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world.
— Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA) — J. R. R. Tolkien's collection of manuscripts.
— The Tolkien Shop in Leiden (Netherlands) — the only brick-and-mortar shop in the world with over 30 years of history, entirely dedicated to J. R. R. Tolkien.
— Tana del Drago Study Center in Dozza (Italy).
— Other private collections (but only the ones mentioned above have open access to the public).

(Based on materials by Becky Dillon, the Senior Administrator for the News and Publications portion of the “International Tolkien Fellowship”, and Ian L. Collier, administrator of “The Tolkien Society” group on Facebook, and also my survey in “The Tolkien Society” group on Facebook).

D. Opening

The opening was hosted by the organizers and keepers of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom, Olga Rudskaya (Allias) and Emma Mikheykina, both of whom spoke to the visitors. Allias presented parts from the oncoming musical “The tale of Beren and Lúthien”, and her poems and songs.

Other guests addressed the public with a welcoming note. Among them we encountered the translator and scientist Igor Khazanov, role-playing activist Vyacheslav Rozhkov (uncle Slava), author Maria Steinmann (Marisanna Steinmann), “Vescon” (Moscow Tolkien convention) organizer Dmitry Godkin (Arthoron), writer Alexandra Barkova (Alwdis N. Ruthien), Nadezhda Chertkova (Estel), one of the first Tolkien translators in Russia , Wallace band folk ensemble, and others.

Role-playing activist uncle Slava (Vyacheslav Rozhkov) leaving his famous chain armour and his sword in the keeping of the museum

Welcome note by scientist and translator Igor Khazanov

Performance by organizer and songwriter Allias (Olga Rudskaya)

Audio engineers and Tinn Sulien's picture with electronics of the Ostranna creative group

One of the book shelves with unique Tolkien editions and Russian translations

Tinn Sulien's picture with electronics of the Ostranna creative group and different constellations

E. Exhibition

Picture: Shields from the room of Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom

The museum takes one large room and holds the great trees of Valinor, the golden Telperion and silver Laurelin, a couple of Ents, a lot of shields and swords, jewellery, and some beautiful art and posters, but most importantly of course a collection of books, some of which are unique in Russia. Translations from the time when they were photocopied or even rewritten by hand, during Samizdat times (an era of reserved self-publishing in Russia due to high censorship and total deficiency of books), until the most recent publications.

The Tolkien musem in Moscow has a unique position compared to other similar establishments abroad: it holds a history of several generations of Russian Tolkiendili, their dreams and their histories, in one place where anyone can visit them during exhibition times or other events held at the venue. More importantly still, this history is still alive.

The calendar of the events is available at the museum's website (in Russian): at Vkontakte social group, in Instagram.

Since the publication of the Russian article, the museum has been enriched with a guitar, several lamps, clothing articles, tables for the fair, books, and tabletop games, and many other objects which keep appearing on the spot and arriving to the museum from all sides and directions. It is still being granted objects gathering dust in attics of the buildings in further cities of Russia, that then make their way towards the Moscow newly opened place. There are also gifts, like uncles Slava's (Vyacheslav Rozhkov) famous chain armour, and his sword with the sheath made out of the fire hose of the MGU university (part of the wild and unpredictable chapter of the history of Russian Tolkienology).

F. Trees of Valinor 
Exclusive

Several artists took part in interior decoration of the museum. Artist Ira Allor suggested and crafted an encasing frame for the wall to create a unitary space for other works to fit in, and put inside it a beautiful rendering of the Taniquetil mountain. The picture of Tinn Sulien with illumination added by the creative group Ostranna, which makes it possible for different constellations to kindle, is perfectly visible from the way in. And finally, the main secret of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom, a mystery for the general public until the very opening, is the Two of Trees of Valinor by artist Heather (Natalia Minskaya) according to the idea of Allias (Olga Rudskaya).

Unique find
 We are featuring exclusive coverage from the artist who took part in the interior decoration of the museum: the previously unpublished sketches and designs of the Two Trees of Valinor by Natalia Minskaya.

Trees of Valinor — Telperion (sketches)

The Silver Tree — Telperion and Laurelin (sketches)

The Two Trees of Valinor — Telperion and Laurelin (sketches)

Trees of Valinor — the elder of the two, the silver Telperion (working process)

Trees of Valinor — the Gold Tree, Laurelin (working process)

Tree of Valinor and artist Heather (Natalia Minskaya) (front); Ira Allor's artwork (back)

G. Series of interviews 
Exclusive

We are announcing a unique series of materials entitled “For our kin and alike” (in Russian). Those are the interviews we took from guests and organizers referring to, but not limited by, the opening of the MMT.

Talks with key figures in Russian Tolkienology at the opening of the Moscow museum of Tolkien fandom
Igor Khazanov, translator and scientist: “Tolkien fandom in Russia”
Dmitry Godkin (Arthoron), “Vescon” (Moscow Tolkien convention) organizer: “Event management”
Olga Rudskaya (Allias), organizer and songwriter: “Elves and tricks” (Keeper)
Emma Mikheykina, organizer and owner of the “Prancing Dreadnote” bar: “Unknown exhibits” (Keeper)
Alexandra Barkova (Alwdis N. Ruthien), writer: “Literature perspective”
Ira Allor, artist: “Space decoration”

H. Articles about Tolkien events

Materials on and about Tolkien events in Moscow and other Russian cities, but also around the globe, obtained through a well-planned search and keen interest on the subject.

As I keep searching for the events, new ones are starting to appear in front of my amazed eyes, keeping me wondering, what else can happen in the Tolkien legendarium to come.

I. Links

For more material in Russian, including unique photo and video coverage, please see the article in Russian about the opening of the Moscow Museum of Tolkien fandom in April and the series of interviews with key figures in Russian Tolkienology being announced.

Remarks:

1 Michel Delving, mathoms:
“So, though there was still some store of weapons in the Shire, these were used mostly as trophies, hanging about hearths or on walls, or gathered into the museum at Michel Delving. The Mathom-house in was called; for anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents they passed from hand to hand were of that sort”.

(J. R. R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings”, 1954; Prologue: 1. Concerning Hobbits)

2 A correction from Harm Schelhaas, Manager of the News and Publications in “International Tolkien Fellowship”:
“René van Rossenberg did not found the Tolkien Society Unquendor in the Netherlands, nor was it founded at the same time as the Tolkienshop.com. Unquendor is five years older, founded by Renée Vink, Theo de Feber and Eltjo Poort. René van Rossenberg was an early member, soon became a member of the executive committee, and as such set up the Tolkienshop on behalf of the society. After having laid the foundations of its later success, he took it over as his own business, to prevent the society becoming liable for taxes”.

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