Идея организовать музей, который был бы не только хранителем исторических ценностей, но и научным историческим центром, возникла ещё в первой половине XIX века (the idea to create a museum, in which not only historical values would be kept, but which would also become a scientific historical centre dates back from the early 19th century). But the project took form only during the second half of the 19th century.
In the 60-70s, in a period of reforms and democratic changes in the society, the interest in history increased. In Moscow, historical and ethnographic exhibitions began to appear, but it was still temporary phenomenon.
In 1883, according to the architectural project of V. Sherwood and A. Semenov, the quite surprising building of the museum was built on the spot of Principal Medicine Store and later the first Moscow University founded by M. Lomonosov in 1775.
Since the middle of the 19th century, attempts to revive the old Russian style in architecture were made. В. Шервуд по-своему подошёл к этой проблеме (V. Sherwood approached this problem his own way). He decided that the new building should have some architectural connexions with the Kremlin and St Basil Cathedral. The arrow-shaped building, the turrets echoing the towers of the Kremlin, as well as the decoration and the red -brick colour proved that he succeeded.
However there was a contradiction between the archaic image of the building and the museum’s mission, its purposes for what were not known by Old Russian architecture.
В 1883 г., ко дню коронации царя Александра III, было уже открыто 11 залов (In 1883, the day of the coronation of Tsar Alexander III, eleven exhibit halls where already opened). Hundreds of names can be found on the list of donors among them many scholars, collectors and public institutions that offered their collections of antiquities to the museum. The museum has a rich collection of coins, manuscripts and old books, specimens of Russian, eastern and western weapons, textiles and clothing, items made of precious metals, glass, ceramics, bone and wood.
By 1904, five more exhibit halls were decorated, showing the visitors the materials used under the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov and during the Time of Troubles (Beginning of the 17th century). Collections of our national history from the 17th century until the early 20th century have been installed in the museum only after the post revolutionary years.