University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2014

Abstract

Charles Darwin’s home at Downe in Kent, a memorial museum now owned by English Heritage, has an interesting secret. For a brief time between c1961 and 1964 it had a ‘Russian Room’.
In this room were displayed commemorative paintings, monumental sculpture busts and photographic albums all sent to Britain between 1958 and 1962 by Professor Aleksandr Kots and his wife Nadezhda Ladygina-Kots, the directors of the Soviet Darwin Museum in Moscow. As will be argued, the sending of such gifts had precedents, including connections with the SCRSS, or SCR as it was named in the 1920s.
The period in which the gifts were sent coincided with Kruschev’s ‘Thaw’, the decline of Trofim Lysenko’s power over Soviet bio-science, and the tentative resumption of Anglo-Soviet cultural and scientific relations. This talk examines some aspects of the contextual and strategic motivations for the gifts, their display and the eventual closure of the ‘Russian Room’.

Notes

A revised version of this paper was invited/peer-reviewed and accepted for a special edition of the Russian Journal of Communication in 2016, but was withdrawn by the author due to last minute issues with word length, and not enough time to make the cuts before the final deadline. Another version of the paper, entitled 'A Cold War Curiosity? The Soviet Collection at the Darwin Memorial Museum, Down House, Kent', has been accepted and published by the Journal of the History of Collections.

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