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In conjunction with the Getty Conservation Institute and the St. Petersburg International Center for Preservation, the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C., presented an exhibition of architectural drawings of the New Hermitage.

Watercolors on the Neva: Original Drawings for the New Hermitage was on display at the Octagon—the museum of the American Architectural Foundation—from May 13 through July 13, 1997. All of the 21 drawings in the exhibition were done by Leo von Klenze, the German architect, planner, painter, and engineer who was hired by Czar Nicholas I to plan and build the New Hermitage. Constructed between 1839 and 1852, the New Hermitage was the first building in Russia designed to be a museum as that term is understood today. Until now, the watercolors by von Klenze (detail shown above) had been seen only by visitors to the vaults of the Russian State Historical Archives in St. Petersburg, Russia. The exhibit marked the first time the works had been publicly displayed.

The St. Petersburg International Center for Preservation and the GCI arranged to bring these drawings to the United States to promote an awareness of the richness of the cultural heritage of St. Petersburg and the need for its preservation. The GCI began working in Russia in 1989 with the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences and subsequently helped establish the International Center for Preservation.

The Center's founding chair, Esther Coopersmith, said that it was "a symbol of goodwill and mutual interests that we were able to organize this exhibition of works from the Russian State Historical Archives." The exhibition curator, art historian M. Kirby Talley, Jr., observed that "these drawings are but a small sampling of the wealth of material that awaits the world in the numerous museums, libraries, and archives of St. Petersburg."

Octagon director Eryl Platzer called the exhibit "a first for the Octagon. . . . We are pleased to be able to show these drawings in our gallery and to offer public programs on Russian art and cultural history."