Petr Alekseevich can rightfully be called one of the first Russian collectors, and he developed an interest in collecting at an early age. This was facilitated by his teacher clerk Nikita Moiseevich Zotov. Then, in the German settlement near Moscow, the young tsar saw rich art collections at his new friends: Franz Lefort and Andrei Vinius. But, a real passion for collecting gripped Peter the Great during his trip to Western Europe, which took place in 1696-1697.
During the Great Embassy, the tsar not only got carried away with collecting, but also acquired valuable antiques in Europe, met many famous antique dealers. Having visited Amsterdam, Peter found himself in the center of the international trade in antiques, where rarities were brought from all over the world.
Despite the fact that Peter's hobby for collecting was still haphazard at that time, he made a number of acquisitions that marked the beginning of the formation of valuable collections. The purchases of the young tsar were sent to Moscow, and Areshkin, a physician, was appointed the caretaker. At his disposal were birds, fish, insects and anatomical specimens. The tsar himself, having met the famous anatomist Frederic Ruysch, took him a short course on the storage of exhibits. And the tsar acquired several microscopes from the naturalist A. Levenguk.
Peter did not spare money for the purchase of exhibits. A document from that time has survived, in which the fact of buying a crocodile and a swertfish fish from a merchant Bartholomew Forgagen for an amount of 200 efimks is recorded. And Bartl von Hagem received 165 efimkas for porcelain vessels and sea shells.
Peter continued his shopping in London, where he was greatly impressed by the local museums. After visiting the Mint, the Russian Tsar also became interested in numismatics. Moreover, Peter not only personally acquired interesting antiques, but demanded the same from his companions in the Great Embassy.
Fascinated by the maritime business, Peter showed interest in painting on the relevant subject, acquiring canvases depicting seascapes and ships. A huge library was also sent to Russia, consisting of books on medicine, geography, anatomy, mathematics, military science and shipbuilding. Gradually, in Moscow, in the Wara pharmacy, a very impressive assembly gathered. It is not without reason that the Danish envoy Y. Yul wrote in his memoirs that the library of the Russian tsar is one of the best in the world, contains a huge number of books in various languages.
Until 1714, most of the tsar's collection was kept in Moscow in the Tsar's pharmacy. The sovereign's house in the Preobrazhenskaya Sloboda simply could not accommodate the entire meeting. And in 1714 the Imperial Cabinet, as the collection was called, was moved to the new capital of the state - St. Petersburg. First, the office was placed in the Summer Palace, and then in the Kikin Chambers, where the collection became available for inspection by visitors.
A special place was occupied by the so-called "Siberian collection". It all began in 1715, when the richest Ural industrialist Akinfiy Demidov presented Tsarina Catherine, Peter's wife, a generous gift - 20 gold items. According to Demidov, these treasures are being mined by the so-called "bugrovshchiki" - robbers of burial mounds located in the Urals and Western Siberia. Soon a royal decree was issued, according to which it was strictly forbidden to sell valuables found in the mounds. All of them were to be transferred to the state.
Moreover, they did not indulge in free. Archaeological items were rewarded for discovered and transferred to the treasury. And those who made detailed drawings and a description of the circumstances of finding the antiquities were paid an additional amount.
In total, about 250 items were sent to St. Petersburg: bracelets, earrings, belt jewelry, household items. Most of them were made of gold and belong to the Scythian-Siberian style. But, the problem was that these items, although they were kept in the Kunstkamera, were not seriously studied by anyone. Many years later, in 1901, the famous Russian archaeologist A. A. Spitsyn mentioned that the collection, which is of great value, "has been hidden for two centuries", not described by anyone and even scientifically not weighed.
Many people know that the tsar knew how and loved to pull the teeth of his subjects. He collected the torn teeth. "The register of teeth pulled by the Emperor Peter I from different people and sent to the Hermitage for storage" has exactly 64 pieces.
Peter was also a connoisseur of weapons, both firearms and cold. Its collection numbers 526 samples of weapons made in the 17th - 18th centuries. Moreover, it contains works by both Russian gunsmiths and foreign ones. Initially, the tsar kept the collection in his Moscow house, and in 1736, after the death of the monarch, the weapons were transported to St. Petersburg. In 1810, the armory collection returned to the Mother See and was deposited in the Kremlin Armory Chamber.