The State Museum of GULAG History was founded in 2001; its exhibition was first opened in 2004. The Museum’s founder, Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, a well-known historian, writer and public figure, was himself a prisoner of Stalin’s labor camps.
The museum collection comprises a documentary archive, letters and memoirs by former GULAG prisoners, their personal belongings and a collection of artworks by former GULAG inmates and contemporary artists offering their own vision of the subject.
The exhibition is dedicated to the history of the rise, development and decline of the Soviet labor camp system, an instrumental and integral part of the Soviet state machinery in the 1930s – 50s, and its political, administrative and economic role. The exhibition room also displays personal cases of various people who fell victims of the Soviet repressive policy and were sentenced to labor camp imprisonment. One of the most important sections of the exhibition is a reconstruction of labor camp facilities, such as a prisoners barrack, a punishment cell, an authorized operative officer’s room and a watchtower (in a courtyard). The museum staff offers guided tours in Russian and English.
The museum holds fixed and traveling exhibitions based on its own collections and in collaboration with other museums and archives, private collectors, painters and photographers. It regularly hosts conferences, meetings and presentations dedicated to new studies of the GULAG history and the problems of its interpretation.
Indoor concerts, theater performances, readings and other events are held in the museum’s rooms and a courtyard.