The "Gomel Palace & Park Ensemble" State Historical Cultural Institution is one of the oldest museum institutions in the Republic of Belarus. Established on the basis of the Gomel Palace-Museum, it has been the leading museum in the Gomel Region and one of the best in Belarus for 90 years.
Since the moment of creation its history has been closely related to development of the City of Gomel and of the architectural-park complex.
Gomel is one of the oldest cities and the second largest and economically potential city in Belarus. Its past tightly neighbors on its present in the city streets.
Frontier location of the Gomel lands, favorable location of the city on the turn-off of the famous "From the Varangians to the Greeks" waterway caused various countries to fight for Gomel during all ages of its existence.
Gomel used to be part of the Old Russian State, of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russia and Zhemait, of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, of the Russian Empire in different historical periods.
According to the terms of the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1772 the territory of Gomel became part of the Russian Empire.
That's when the history of the Palace, the major attraction of Gomel, starts.
They launched building the Palace in 1777 by the order of Peter Alexandrovich Rumyantsev (1725-1796), General Field Marshal. Catherine II presented him "the village of Gomiy" for his outstanding victories in the Turkish War. All following history of Gomel proved that event had played an important role in shaping outlook and architecture of the city and had influenced its economic and cultural development.
A new palace was founded in the territory of the old Radimichi settlement and instead of the old Chartoriski Barons' castle. Notable contemporary architects participated in designing of the new palace: Y.N. Alekseev, K.I. Blank, Y.M. Felten, M.K. Moscepanov. The construction site was chosen successfully: a steep bank of the Sozh River opening beautiful landscapes of the over-the-river expanse.
Until now the name of the architect, who designed the building, remains unclear. V.F. Morozov, modern Belarusian architecture researcher, believes the architect could be I.E. Starov, talented architect and designer of many buildings in St. Petersburg (Russia), including the famous Taurida Palace.
The Gomel Palace was one of the earliest examples of the Russian classicism architecture brought in life by accession of Catherine II to the throne. The central hall of the Palace framed by columns is gorgeous with its niches and mezzanines, a pinnacle and a dome.
Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev (1754-1826), a distinguished statesman, the Chancellor of the Russian State, the first Chairman of the State Council, a sponsor and a promoter of science and arts, inherited the Gomel Palace after his father P.A. Rumyantsev died. We can hardly overestimate his input in establishment of Gomel as a European city in the beginning of the 19th century.
In N.P. Rumyantsev's time two two-storey wings were attached to the central part of the Palace in 1800-1805 according to the design of J. Clarke, a famous architect. That was when the Palace started having museum peculiarities already. The Palace admired its contemporaries by its beauty and refinement. The chancellor started making various collections gathering them himself.
General Field Marshal Ivan Fedorovich Paskevich (1782-1856), Erivan Earl, His Serene Highness Prince of Warsaw, who was an eminent Russian commander, participant of the 1812 Patriotic War, who had become famous during Russian-Turkish and Russian-Persian Wars, became the owner of the Gomel Estate in 1834.
New landlord continued building the palace & park ensemble. The Palace was reconstructed considerably in 1837-1851. Adam Idzikovski, an outstanding architect of his time, designed the project and managed its construction. The left wing of the Palace changed: piazzas of the Ionic order were removed, a second floor was built, the inside layout altered. The tower and the adjacent veranda with a balcony were built instead of the right wing. The tower became a luxury suite of the Prince, and it placed various collections, war trophies and a library. The wing and the tower were connected to the central part by the galleries, and the river façade of the building got a grotto and a sun porch.
At the time of the Palace reconstruction a park was established around it. Various species of trees and bushes, including exotic ones, were brought there from different regions of Russia and from abroad, and the parkways were built. Romantic corners of the park were formed in the same period. The riverbed of the old river named Gomejuk converted into the Swan Pond. They started planting flowerbeds, making grottos, pergolas, fountains in the lawns. The copies of antique sculptures were installed in the parkways. Contemporaries admired the Gomel Park, and the specialists believed it was one of the best examples of landscape art of the time.
The architectural-park ensemble in Gomel became one of the best Russian estates and one of the distinguished works of A. Idzikovski after those changes.
Thus, in the first half of the 19th century formation of the architectural-park ensemble was finished.
The son of Field Marshal, Fyodor Ivanovich Paskevich (1823-1903), continued traditions of collecting and equipping the Palace with the necessary facilities.
It was his wish to make a house church in honor of St. John the Theologian and St. Elisabeth in the second half of the 19th century in the Northern Risalit of the Palace. They changed the central part of the porch facing the city, and built the current ramp. The Palace had kept its outlook without considerable changes until the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the most splendid estates of the time had not only its household items typical for the old palace estates, but its rich collections, too. Adam Kirkor, Belarusian local history researcher, wrote in 1882 in the book named "Picturesque Russia": "Different trophies of two field marshals, collections of rare attractions, valuable presents of the reigning persons, rich collection of various pieces of art make the Gomel Castle a real historical-archeological museum". "The inventory lists of the Gomel Castle" dated 1891 and 1910 keep the same expressive evidences.
The Palace, its rich and rare collections later became the basis to establish the Museum of Art and History, which was officially opened on November 07, 1919.
The collection of the museum had "... rich, eminent and preciously inlaid tallboys and furniture", bronze clocks and girandoles made by the best Russian and West-European masters, war trophies, miniature portraits, the richest library... In the judgments of the notable art critics and the specialists of the museum business of that time, the collections and the Palace itself were of huge "historical and artistic interest". There were the works by Rauch, Shubin, Orlovski, Sukhodolski, Mashkov. The richest collections of numismatology, porcelain, pieces of decorative and applied arts became available to the museum visitors.
The fate of the palace collection was uneasy during the Civil War and in the 1920s. Fire in March 1919 sizably damaged the Palace building and its collections. Due to numerous sales and transfers of the palace property to various organizations the pieces of art, furniture, household and many other items were lost irretrievably.
The years of the Great Patriotic War damaged the palace-museum a lot and destroyed the integrity of its collections: the largest part of the museum holdings was lost. The team of the museum employees had to do a big job to re-establish the museum and to create new expositions.
Once created the museum has been numerously renamed. It was renamed as "the Gomel Regional Local History Museum" in 1952. The holdings of the museum have been actively replenished by the materials on the history of the Gomel Region since then.
From 1970 until 1999 the museum would gradually possess the sites of the Gomel Architectural-Park Complex: those buildings had belonged to other organizations. In 1999 the Palace was closed for repair and reconstruction. Once accomplished, the Palace opened its Tower in July 2003 to exhibit the exposition devoted to the former owners of the Gomel Estate: to the Rumyantsevs and the Paskeviches. The Central part of the Rumyantsevs-Paskeviches Palace opened to its visitors after restoration in September 2004.
Due to re-organization in 2006 the Regional Local History Museum has gradually transformed into the "Gomel Palace & Park Ensemble" State Historical Cultural Institution. As the park was attached to it the Local History Museum became a structural unit of the new state historical cultural institution, which got the Winter Garden together with the Observation Tower in 2007.
A branch of the museum, "The Museum of Archeology and Reconstruction of Ancient Crafts", was established in 2008.
The Museum of the Gomel Palace & Park Ensemble celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2009. Today it is a scientific-methodological and a consultation center to organize operation of the museums in the Gomel Region. It is one of the largest and the most reputable museums in the Republic of Belarus.