Museum Bell Center, Valday

Museum Bell Center, Valday

Museum Bell Center in Valday, Russia is the only museum in the country which contains bells from all over the world. It first opened in a historic building in the early 20th century and was expanded in the early 21st century when it was moved to the ground floor of Church of the Great Martyr Catherine.

Bells began to be cast in Valday of Novgorod Region in the early 19th century, and in time the city grew to be the center of bell casting for all of Russia. Valday’s growth and development was boosted by a central postal route which ran through the town from St. Petersburg to Moscow. As the Valday bell became the national standard, it was chosen for the carts of the national mail carriers and the horse transport of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The last remaining bell casting plant in Russia closed in Valday in the 1930s, yet plans are underway to revive the practice with an authentic bell workshop.

Museum Bell Center claims a collection of 1500 bells, objects and documents from Russia, Europe and Asia. A special feature of the museum is the creative combination of traditional exhibits with computer technology which allows visitors to experience the museum's collections in a unique and memorable way. Perception is enhanced by sound and lighting techniques, while the interactive area features a table with themed games.

A favorite of many visitors is the interactive model of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, displayed in the last hall of the museum. The exhibit depicts all three tiers of the bell tower and lets you hear the ringing of the carillon, clock and church bells. Guests will learn that in the belfry of Peter and Paul Fortress there are actually three independent bell systems which are used for different occasions.

Exhibitions of Museum Bell Center are divided between four halls which portray the history of bells from antiquity to the present day. The first hall includes bells from the 3rd century BC to the 14th century AD; ritual bells from China, Vietnam, India, Benin and other countries; 12th-18th century church bells of Europe and Russia; bells of Valday; and documentary materials from the bell factories of 19th-20th century Russia. In the second hall are bells which were invented in Valday and brought the region to fame, including wind chimes and bells used on doors, ships, fire stations, theaters and schools.

In the third hall of Museum Bell Center are decorative and gift bells, while the final hall is dedicated to the modern history of bells. Visitors will learn about the decline of bells in 20th-century Russia, as well as the eventual revival of bell ringing, the preservation of famous belfries and the historical process of bell casting in Russian factories.

A visit to Museum Bell Center in Valday will charm you with melodic sounds as you learn about the industry which brought the city to fame. Be sure to pick up a small bell from the gift shop in order to bring the sounds of Valday home with you!