Geraldine Norman has published two books about the Hermitage 20 years apart. “The Hermitage: The Biography of a Great Museum” came out in 1997 and “Dynastic Rule: Mikhail Piotrovsky and the Hermitage” in 2016. Her lecture will trace the extraordinary changes in the museum over this period and how they came about: expansion, with a vast new wing – 800 rooms and 5 internal courtyards – in the General Staff Building devoted to the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries; globalisation: the opening of branches in Holland, London, Las Vegas & all over Russia, with plans for Barcelona and Shanghai; a new vast ‘open storage’ facility Staraya Derevnya on the edge of the city with English and Russian language tours. The early years, following Perestroika, saw a desperate fight for survival with the US, Canada, Holland & other Western countries trying to help. Support for Yeltsin in the 1996 election and a working relationship with Putin have gradually fed state money into the transformation of the museum.
Geraldine worked for 25 years at the Times, then for 8 years at The Independent reporting on the art market. She was voted ‘News Reporter of the Year’ in 1977 for her revelations about the picture faker Tom Keating. In 1993 she visited the Hermitage for the first time and in 1995 she began work on her first book about it. In 2000 she was appointed by a consortium of investors, led by Lord Rothschild, to set up the ‘Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House’. (They closed in 2007). After she left the project in 2001, she helped launch the ‘Hermitage Magazine’ and was its first editor. In 2003 she founded the ‘UK Friends of the Hermitage’ whose name was changed in 2011 to the ‘Hermitage Foundation UK’ and continues as a director