Instagrammers capture Russia’s most famous museum without the crowds

Seventeen popular Instagram users were given free reign in the completely empty halls of Russia’s most famous museum – the Hermitage – for just one day. RBTH selected the best shots and talked to some of the participants about the event.


Russia’s most active Instagram users have been given the opportunity to explore the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg on its day off.

On Nov.10, the lucky 17 Instagram users participated in an action called #EmptyHermitage, which allowed them to browse the completely empty halls of the museum and take photographs at their leisure. The museum is traditionally closed on Mondays.

The group of amateur photographers was selected by Instagram Russia based on the popularity and activity of their Instagram accounts.


This is the second event of its kind under a joint project by Instagram Russia and Russian cultural institutions. In October, Instagrammers took over the empty Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. According to the organizers, the main purpose of these events is to open the doors of beautiful buildings to talented Instagram photographers during off hours, when they are completely devoid of tourists.

The Instagram users, outfitted according to a strict black tie dress code, came to the Hermitage to participate in the event. “The idea of dressing up also helped us at the meeting at the Bolshoi,” Instagram Community Manager for Russia and Eastern Europe Olesya Shayakhmetova tells RBTH.

“It’s really important to unite people prior to the action so that the photo session is really interesting. At the Hermitage it’s as if we were reincarnated into the protagonists of a captivating movie that unfolds in one of the world’s most famous museums. We had chases, love stories – everything was like a real movie,” she adds.


Instagram photographers who were lucky enough to take part in the event were left with some unique impressions of the empty museum. “I had some very unusual emotions after visiting the empty Hermitage,” Olga Melekestseva, a participant, tells RBTH.

“You have the opportunity to view the space and photograph the museum from any angle in silence and calm, without thinking about visitors getting into the shot or ruining the composition,” she reflects.


“It’s simply amazing to feel the breath of the empty Hermitage,” says Instagrammer Yekaterina Mishchenkova, adding that “it’s as if you’re inside an enormous living organism.”

“Without the crowd, you immediately get the completely special sense of just how much power and beauty is in this space,” agrees photographer Anastasia Kopteva.


Instagrammers captured not only the empty halls of the Hermitage, but also unique episodes involving the museum’s employees. In some photos, you can see light bulbs being changed in enormous crystal chandeliers and picture frames being dusted.  

“I was able to observe student artists who work at the museum on its days off – the Hermitage as a theater with its own special life behind the scenes!” says Melekestseva.


More: Instaweek: Sulphury fog over Moscow and #EmptyHermitage

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