Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Newly discovered albums from the National Science and Media Museum collection form part of a new exhibition at the Science Museum The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution. Investigating the role of science in the lives and deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, this exhibition takes visitors behind the scenes of one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.
Set against a turbulent backdrop of social upheaval and war between 1900 and 1918, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution will explore the significant influence of medicine on the private lives of the imperial family during this period and the advances in medicine and forensic science over 70 years later that transformed the investigation into their sudden disappearance.
Rare artefacts, including the family’s personal diaries, private possessions and jewellery found at the scene of their murder, and two Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs presented by the Tsar to his wife just a year before the fall of the imperial house, will help bring the personal lives of autocrat Nicholas II and his family to life.
For the first time, photograph albums created by an English tutor to the Tsar’s nephews, and now part of the Science Museum Group collection, will be on public display, providing a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of the Romanov family. The albums were found by chance by curator Natalia Sidlina, when she unearthed them when searching for Russia-related material held at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford for the 2015 Cosmonauts exhibition. Among the items brought up by the museum’s curators was a crate containing 22 albums, the Romanov albums.
From the treatment of their only son and heir Alexei’s life-threatening haemophilia B, a rare blood condition and infamous ‘royal disease’ passed down from Queen Victoria, to the Tsarina’s fertility and the Red Cross medical training of the Tsar’s daughters, this exhibition will explore the imperial family’s contrasting reliance on both the latest medical discoveries of the time as well as traditional and spiritual healers. The family’s determination to keep Alexei’s illness a secret compelled them to take controversial measures that ultimately contributed to the fall of the 300-year-old dynasty.
Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said:
“This exhibition marks 100 years since the end of the Romanov dynasty and explores one of the most dramatic periods in Russian history, all through the unique lens of science. Our curatorial team have brought together an exceptional, rare and poignant collection to tell this remarkable story. I want to thank all our lenders in the UK, Russia and America for making this exhibition possible.”
The investigation into the disappearance of Tsar Nicholas II, his family and entourage following the revolutions of 1917, started in July 1918 and the case remains open today. One hundred years later, this exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes to uncover the science behind the investigation into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.
Visitors will be able to examine evidence from the scene of the execution – from the dentures of the imperial physician, a single diamond earring belonging to the Tsarina, to a chandelier from the house where the family were executed – and delve into the remarkable modern forensic investigation which set out to piece together the events of that night.
This investigation was one of the first occasions that forensic DNA analysis was used to solve a historic case, involving the best British experts under the direction of Dr Peter Gill from the Forensic Science Service. Blood samples from relatives and advances in DNA profiling and 3D reconstruction helped to positively identify the remains of the imperial family and enabled the investigation to reach convincing conclusions.
The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution
21 September 2018 – 24 March 2019
For further information and to book free tickets visit the Science Museum website.
Image: top: The tsar and his family at Gatchina Palace, outside St Petersburg, around 1915. Photograph: The Science Museum Group Collection; Bottom: Radiograph of Emperor Nicholas II. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A Countway Library of Medicine.
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