The history of the World War I Museum at Tsarskoye Selo began in 1911 when Elena Tretyakova, widow of the brother of the founder of the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow, presented Emperor Nicholas II with a collection of paintings, documents and trophies of the wars Russia partook in since ancient times.
At the emperor’s behest, the collection formed the basis for the army history museum at the Martial Chamber complex built in the Russian Revival style by the architect Semyon Sidorchuk alongside the Alexander Park in 1913-17 on donations from different patrons, including Elena Tretyakova who became the museum’s director and curator.
In 1915, a year after the war broke out, Nicholas II ordered to enlarge the collection with the specially commissioned portraits of St George crosses awarded soldiers and officers and with trophies brought from the battlefronts, thus making World War I the museum’s main theme. On June 24th the Admiralty in St Petersburg held a WWI trophies exhibit including “Tretyakova’s section (gathered for Tsarskoye Selo Museum)”, which presented over a hundred pieces of art, documentation, photography, German and Austrian soldier equipment, as well as books, maps, and even a shot-down Zeppelin airship.
February 1917 saw the opening of the Great 1914-18 War Museum at the Martial Chamber, which unfortunately lasted not longer than until 1919. During the revolution years in Russia its exhibits were relocated or destroyed. The Martial Chamber was transferred under the control of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve in 2008. The restored World War I Museum is open there from 5 August 2014 for WWI Centenary, as a permanent display named Russia in the Great War.