Karakalpakstan museums are an integral part of the world’s priceless heritage. They represent the cultural and natural heritage of this region.
The development of Karakalpakstan museology was preceded by a long and interesting history and is associated with the historical and cultural processes that took place in Uzbekistan in the late XIX century. During this period, the first museum exhibitions in Tashkent were established and at the same time the first Karakalpak exhibition was organized in Petro-Alexandrovsk (currently Turtkul city). It exhibited objects found on a dried part of Istemes Lake in 1876–1880, including ceramic and metal objects, a metal plate with an inscription of a mosque construction, as well as ethnographic materials.
In 1928 a local history society was established in Karakalpakstan. A year later, in 1929, the society organized a local historical exhibition at the Turtkul House of Culture. It displayed Karakalpak traditional clothing, utensils, manuscripts, the first Turtkul printed books, photographs and paintings. This exhibition laid a foundation for the establishment of the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Regional Studies, one of the first museums not only in the lower reaches of the Amudarya River and Aral Sea region, but throughout Central Asia. N.A. Baskakov and N.V. Torchinskaya, graduates of Moscow State University, and young Karakalpak scientist K. Aimbetov were actively involved in its organization. As the museum grew, the collection became richer. Exhibits were collected from people and found in the course of archaeological and ethnographic expeditions led by famous scientists, such as S.P. Tolstov, T.A. Zhdanko, A.L. Melkov, Ya. Guliamov and A.S. Morozova.
In the middle of the XX centur y a unique artist, restorer and ethnographer Igor Savi t sk y signi f icant ly changed Karakalpakstan museology. His invaluable contribution included the establishment of the Karakalapakstan State Museum of Art (now named after I.V. Savitsky), as well as the formation of its collection that today is famous all over the world. Arriving in Karakalpakstan in the 1950s, Savitsky began collecting articles of folk and applied arts. After the establishment of the museum, he supplemented the museum collection with unique paintings of unknown and unrecognized artists who made up a collection of Russian avant-garde artists. It is the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art after the one in St. Petersburg’s Russian Museum. Due to its uniqueness, the museum is called a “pearl” of Karakalpakstan, while British newspaper The Guardian called it “one of the finest museums in the world.”
Over the last 20 years, the government has payed great attention to the development of museums. At the end of the 1990s the Berdakh Museum was founded in the city of Nukus. It is dedicated to Karakalpakstan literature and ethnography. In addition, in 1997 the Karakalpak Regional Branch of the Uzbekistan Academy of Arts was founded. It contains the finest works of contemporary artists. Recently significant work has been done to revive and preserve traditional crafts in the Karakalpak Crafts Development Centre. During the same period a private museum – the House Museum of Shamuratov Family – was set up in Karakalpakstan.
Today, Karakalpakstan museums play an important role in the conservation, promotion and revival of national culture.