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Science Museum explores investigation into murder of Russia’s last Tsar

A new exhibition, opening at the Science Museum this September, will investigate the role of science in the extraordinary lives and deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, and take visitors behind the scenes of one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

Set against a turbulent backdrop of social upheaval and war between 1900 and 1918, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution will explore the significant influence of medicine on the private lives of the imperial family during this period and the advances in medicine and forensic science over 70 years later that transformed the investigation into their sudden disappearance.

Four objects from the exhibition The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution

Rare artefacts, including the family’s personal diaries, private possessions and jewellery found at the scene of their murder, and an Imperial Fabergé Egg presented by the Tsarina to her husband just a year before the fall of the imperial house, will help bring the personal lives of autocrat Nicholas II and his family to life. For the first time, photographic albums created by an English tutor to the imperial family, and now part of the Science Museum Group collection, will be on public display, providing a fascinating glimpse into their daily lives.

From the treatment of their only son and heir Alexei’s life-threatening haemophilia B, a rare blood condition and infamous ‘royal disease’ passed down from Queen Victoria, to the Tsarina’s fertility and the Red Cross medical training of the Tsar’s daughters, this exhibition will explore the imperial family’s contrasting reliance on both the latest medical discoveries of the time as well as traditional and spiritual healers. The family’s determination to keep Alexei’s illness a secret, as well as their unorthodox approach to providing relief, compelled them to take controversial measures that ultimately contributed to the fall of the 300-year-old dynasty. 

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum, said: “This exhibition marks 100 years since the end of the Romanov dynasty and explores one of the most dramatic periods in Russian history, all through the unique lens of science. Our curatorial team have brought together an exceptional, rare and poignant collection to tell this remarkable story. I want to thank all our lenders in the UK, Russia and America for making this exhibition possible.” 

The investigation into the disappearance of Tsar Nicholas II, his family and entourage, following the revolutions of 1917, started in July 1918 and the case remains open today. One hundred years later, this exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes to uncover the science behind the investigation into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.  

Visitors will be able to examine evidence from the scene of the execution, from the dentures of the imperial physician and a single diamond earring belonging to the Tsarina, to an icon peppered with bullet holes, and delve into the remarkable modern forensic investigation which set out to piece together the events of that night. 

This investigation was one of the first occasions that forensic DNA analysis was used to solve a historic case, involving the best British experts under the direction of Dr Peter Gill from the Forensic Science Service.  Blood samples from relatives, including His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, and advances in DNA profiling and 3D reconstruction, helped to positively identify the remains of the imperial family and enabled the investigation to reach convincing conclusions. Formal identification of the remains of the last members of the imperial family is expected to be announced this week, which will finally and decisively bring closure to this historic case.

The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution will open on Friday 21 September 2018. For further information and to book free tickets visit sciencemuseum.org.uk/thelasttsar.  

Ends

For press information, interviews and images please contact Julia Murray in the Science Museum Press Office on 020 7942 4328 or email julia.murray@sciencemuseum.ac.uk 

Notes to Editors 

The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution
21 September 2018 – 24 March 2019
Free, ticketed
sciencemuseum.org.uk/thelasttsar
@ScienceMuseum 
#thelasttsar

Image captions and credits:

  1. Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna and Nicholas II with children onboard the Polar Star yacht, 7 September 1905, c. State Archive of the Russian Federation
  2. Faberge Firm, Imperial Steel Easter Egg, 1916, c. The Moscow Kremlin Museums
  3. X-ray of the Hand and Wrist of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, 1898, c. Harvard Medical Library
  4. Nicholas II Forensic Facial Reconstruction, 1991, c. Sergey A. Nikitin 

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.  For more information about the Science Museum visit  sciencemuseum.org.uk.

Exhibition Media Partner: 

About The Telegraph

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Founded in 1855, The Telegraph has built a diversified commercial model, with equal strength in advertising, subscriptions and circulation, commerce, and events. In 1994, The Telegraph launched an online offering, the first UK publisher to do so. The launch in 2016 of a freemium digital subscriptions model, with clearly defined open and premium content, has enhanced its ability to offer both scale and engagement to support this diversified approach.

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*NRS PADD December 2016. Adobe Analytics, February 2017.

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