Our Museum was opened to the public in November 2004, but had long been a dream of Fyodor Shidlovskiy, the museum’s founder. An engineer by background, in the late 1980’s Fyodor worked for a local airline in northeastern Yakutia, in the small old town of Srednekolymsk on the Kolyma River. He loved that severe and wild country, and was fond of hunting and traveling along the local rivers and through taiga forest. Fyodor knew that this region was rich with fossils, and had heard about the famous Beryozovka Mammoth carcass found not far from Srednekolymsk. Once, in a steep bluff at the Beryozovka River, he found a large limb bone and a tusk of mammoth. That event changed Shidlovskiy’s life. Collecting fossils of extinct Pleistocene animals became his hobby, and then a favorite business.
By 1994, Shidlovskiy’s collection contained so many interesting fossils that he received proposals to organize a mobile exhibition of Ice Age animals in Europe. At that time Fyodor was already taken with a new idea: to create a museum of the mammoth fauna in Yakutsk or in Moscow. And not just a paleontological museum of a strictly academic style, but a live museum-show, in which serious scientific evidence and valuable fossils would be presented in a simple, intelligible and evocative way.
To put his plans into practice, Fyodor sought contacts with government officials, and wrote to various important persons. Months and years passed, but all was in vain. The development of the traditional business of ivory trading could be one possible source of funding for the museum project. Extensive collecting of fossils allowed the creation of composite skeletons and, later, the stuffed bodies of extinct animals for sale. Successful deals at the start of this business allowed volumes of further fossil material to be collected in Siberia. The best and most interesting specimens were stored for the future museum.
By 1993, when Fyodor moved to Moscow, he had taken a serious interest in the art of bone carving. Handicrafts made of mammoth ivory, and carving technology, fascinate Shidlovskiy.
Thus, part of Shidlovskiy’s dream has been realized. The Mammoth Chamber project also seems more realistic now. We believe that this is the first private museum of its kind in Russia – entertaining as well as educating.