Historical lighting forms an integral part of the interiors of the State Hermitage Museum: great palace chandeliers, lamps, wall sconces and floor lamps made in the 18th-19th centuries by Russian and European masters. Often, chandeliers, floor lamps, wall sconces and candelabras were created in accordance with the intention of the architects who designed the palace interiors, they were an integral part hereof and they were designed specifically. Such works require a very correct approach to the selection of technological methods for restoration. For a long time repairs and restoration of these monuments in the Imperial Hermitage were performed by invited masters who sometimes were insufficiently skilled, and after the revolution, this work was done by the museum electricians.
At the end of the Great Patriotic War, when the halls of the Hermitage reopened to the public, it was necessary to restore the lighting. This work was entrusted to the staff of the production workshops at the State Hermitage Museum, war veterans K.L. Bondarenko and N.K. Kryazhev; the latter worked at the Hermitage from 1933 to 1986.
In the 1950s, they were joined by V.P. Petrov and A.N. Subbotin. The team was not only engaged in the restoration of lighting, but also in the restoration of the museum’s electricity circuits. In 1971, Special Scientific Restoration Workshops (SSRW) were organised in the State Hermitage Museum upon the initiative of Boris B. Piotrovsky, Director of the Museum, and existed at the Hermitage until 2007.
In the same year, a Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Chandeliers (LSRC) was established as a new division of the Department of Scientific Restoration and Conservation of the State Hermitage Museum. The main core of the Laboratory was made of the most experienced restorers of one of the SSRW units engaged in the restoration of lighting. Today, the Laboratory employs five art restorers: P.A. Khrebtukov (Head), S.G. Bolotin, D.A. Voronin, A.N. Gerasimov and S.A. Piskunov.
In the early post-war years, the restoration work was limited to the most essential activities such as cleaning, installation and electrification.
Currently, the Laboratory performs technologically complex and important restoration. An important component of most of the restoration projects is restoration of lost parts. To this end, different methods are applied: casting from a wax model, embossing, knock-out, hard and soft soldering, turning, milling and fitting, galvanic gilding and silvering. Some of the light fixtures were destroyed or had significant loss of decoration. Recently, many of them have undergone scientific reconstruction performed by the staff of the Laboratory.
Based on the accumulated experience, the Laboratory staff developed a method for the restoration of gilded bronze lighting fixtures, the matter of use of laser welding in restoration is being studied, other techniques are being developed as well. In addition to lighting, LSRC experts restore other monuments of applied art: large ceremonial vases, weapons, armour, interior items. Due to the difficult technique of making some of the items, their restoration is often performed in collaboration with other laboratories – restorers of ceramics, textiles and furniture.