During the long years of its existence, the Hermitage has faced many challenges, the most critical being during the days of World War II, when the museum narrowly escaped total destruction. Today, because of the great changes that have occurred in our country, we are once again facing another extremely difficult period and many new and pressing problems.
Our great museum desperately needs a new system of financing. Our scientists, restorers, and custodial staff receive extremely low and insufficient salaries. The museum's buildings urgently need restoration and protection from pollution, rain, underground water and the growing danger of vandalism. The museum's priceless objects of art need greater restoration care and attention; this process is now greatly hindered by the lack of proper materials. We need new showcases and a new lighting system.
Museums all over the world face many of these same problems, but the difference for us is in quantity, not in principle. Our world in Russia is changing and we are now being compelled to change our traditional ways of solving problems. Although the state must remain the main base of material support for a museum as large as the Hermitage, we are now in the process of learning how to become more independent of the state for our financial and material support.
Given these new challenges, our primary challenge is how to prepare the Hermitage for the XXI century. How will it preserve its cultural role in the world? The general reconstruction of the Hermitage, which was started in 1985, has begun to bring to reality the ideas we have about our future. The recently reconstructed Hermitage Theatre is a good example of the new direction we want to take: restore the old beauty, develop new exhibitions, install new technology, provide new storage and security facilities, make the Hermitage a centre of varied artistic activities.
The Hermitage will remain an imperial palace serving as a magnificent setting for the art and culture of the world, but in the future we plan to open its doors much wider to the general public while providing more opportunities for specialists' visits and scientific studies. We must and we want to show a much larger part of our collections that a visitor can presently see.
Our intention is to provide the museum with modern technological equipment for security, climate control, information and audio-visual possibilities for scientific research and restoration. We want it to be a place for all kinds of artistic activities: exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, philosophical discussions, television events and art festivals. The Museum's reserves and libraries will be more open and accessible. We plan to multiply the museum's ties with the city of St. Petersburg so that it continues to be one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg's culture in the future.
We want to develop further our role as a leading scientific institution and become a training and consulting centre for art history, technical expertise in the field of art restoration, security and the teaching of art and archaeology.
While developing our autonomy, we also have to construct new forms of coordination with the Government, the Ministry of Culture, the city administration, international organizations and foundations and the international community of museums.
To achieve these goals, the Hermitage will develop some new specialized museums within the large Museums: a "Peter the Great" museum, a museum of applied arts, a museum of archaeology and a museum of the Winter Palace. To house these new museums, the Hermitage has acquired new buildings where we have begun difficult reconstruction work. We are also building new sites for restoration and storage facilities and must install new systems of climate control, hydro-isolation, lighting and security alarms.
We want to create a broad field of goodwill around the Hermitage, which is a museum not only for Russia, but for the whole world.