On the decision of the government, approved by the Emperor Alexander II, in 1861 an important collection of books, coins, manuscripts and other ethnographic and historical materials from the collection of Count Nikolay Rumyantsev (1754–1826) was transferred from St. Petersburg to Moscow and placed in the Pashkov House on Volkhonka Street, built after a project by the architect Vasili Bazhenov. The museum was opened in May 1862 under the name Moscow Public Museum and Rumyantsev Museum. In 1869, it was renamed Moscow Public and Rumyantsev Museum, in 1913 Imperial Moscow and Rumyantsev Museum, after February 1917 State Rumyantsev Museum. At first, the museum was a merger of all the Moscow public collections, consisting of eight sections: manuscripts and rare books, library, fine arts and antiquities, Christian antiquities, mineralogy, zoology, numismatics and ethnography. Later mineralogical and zoological collections were transferred to the Moscow University. In 1900, there were five sections in the museum: library, department of manuscripts and old Slavic printed books, department of fine arts and classical antiquity, department of ethnography and department of antiquities.


Lugt markAfter 1917, all sections started to grow quickly as private collections were confiscated and transferred to the Rumyantsev Museum – and soon there was not enough space for the items. In 1922, a collection of paintings by Western European artists was transferred to the Museum of Fine Arts on Volkhonka Street opened in 1912 (it already hosted the Pensky collection of drawings). In 1924, the science ministry board decreed the closing of the Rumyantsev Museum. Its collections were distributed among other museums, and only the library stayed in the Pashkov House, renamed Lenin Russian Public Library.