A Cold War curiosity?: The Soviet collection at the Darwin memorial museum, Down House, Kent.
In the late 1950s-early 1960s, the Charles Darwin memorial museum at Down House in Kent acquired a collection of Soviet paintings, sculptures and photographic albums, none of which are currently on display to the public. These artefacts were sent to the UK from the State Darwin Museum in Moscow, by its directors, the ornithologist Professor Aleksandr Kots and his wife, the animal behaviourist, Dr Nadezhda Ladygina-Kots. The ostensible reasons for the gifts were largely connected to anniversary celebrations of Darwin’s life and work. The focus on art works related to the Darwin Museum’s particular concern with the use of art to stimulate and inform visitors without the use of too much text in the displays. This article explores the potential impact of the contemporary, Soviet and international, ‘Cold War’ debates over ‘Lysenkoism’ and ‘Soviet Darwinism’, on the short-lived display at Down House, entitled the ‘Russian Room’ (c.1961-1964).