The Museum of Archaeology at Chelyabinsk State University appeared in the late 1970s. Its exposition was originally located in two rooms of the student dormitory, then a small room in the academic building was allocated for the museum. It presented the most striking objects and interesting materials from the results of the University archaeological expedition, organized by the famous archaeologist and eminent scholar Gennady Borisovich Zdanovich. One of the most successful archeological schools - Chelyabinsk archeological school - started in Chelyabinsk State University thanks to him.
In 2008, the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography as one of the departments of the Educational and Scientific Center for the Study of Nature and Man was established by the decision of the Academic Council of Chelyabinsk State University. The modern exposition of the museum consists of two halls - archaeological and ethnographic. Today visitors of the museum can get acquainted not only with the most ancient events of Southern Urals history, but also plunge into the world of ethnographic modernity - that is what is still alive in the memory of our parents and grandparents. During 2009-2011, the museum was visited by more than 3,000 people, mostly students and schoolchildren, guests of the university and participants of conferences. In 2010 the museum won second place in the regional contest of university museums, held on the anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. One of the achievements of the Museum exhibition activity is holding the exhibition "Arkaim: ancient settlements of the Southern Trans-Ural Region" in France (Tend) together with the Museum of Nature and Man of "Arkaim" Reserve.
The museum exposition introduces the visitor to the history of the Southern Urals. The first humans, mammoth and glacial horse hunters, appeared here in the Mousterian era, no later than 40 thousand years ago. The centers of their spiritual life were located in caves with magical images of animals. There are two such caves in Russia: Kapovaya in Bashkiria and Ignatievskaya on the Sim River in the Chelyabinsk region. In Neolithic time (IV - III millennia B.C.) areas of the Southern Urals were in the zone where the horse was domesticated, solid sedentary life was formed and the development of copper began.
However, the truly grandiose events took place in the steppe zone of the Southern Urals at the turn of the III-II millennium BC. They are associated with the arrival from the west of groups of people belonging to the Indo-European language array, who built a series of fortified settlements, conventionally called "Country of cities", the most famous of which was the settlement of Arkaim. During the Arkaim period the development of metallurgy, architecture and spiritual culture reached great heights. The culture of "proto-towns" did not last long - hardly more than three hundred years.
At the turn of the II-I millennium BC in the steppes of the Southern Urals there is a process of formation of nomadic type of economy. The first nomads (Saks or Sarmatians according to Oriental or ancient sources) left numerous burial mounds, giving archaeologists rich information about the life, culture and social structure of that time. The nomadic culture of the Early Iron Age and Middle Ages was inherited by the modern ethnic groups of the Southern Urals, the Kazakhs and the Bashkirs.
General ideas of the exposition. When creating the museum's exposition project, a task was set to "combine" a museum object, a variety of scientific information and modern museum design. The exposition allows both overview and a number of thematic excursions and lectures for students specializing in archaeology and ethnography. The idea of "unity" of nature and man in ancient times, expressed first of all in the determining influence of natural landscape and climate on material and spiritual culture, was the starting point in creating the artistic design of the exposition. This idea was realized architecturally and artistically through creation of specially organized exposition space. Being a single whole and designed in a single style, the exposition is not visible to the visitor in any point of the hall. Thus, the viewer discovers the "new" not only figuratively, but literally as well.
The museum funds were formed in the process of archaeological and ethnographic expeditions, which are held annually with the participation of students of Chelyabinsk State University.
The ethnographic collection contains objects of Russian, Bashkir, Tatar, Nagaibak, Mordovian ethnic groups, as well as objects of industrial and cottage industry, everyday life of the first half - the middle of the 20th century. The collection is not only of museum interest, but also of scientific interest, taking into account the lack of scientific study of the region by ethnologists, as well as the small number of ethnographic collections in the museums of the Chelyabinsk region.
The archaeological collection includes items from studies of archaeological sites from several historical eras: the Eneolithic, the Bronze Age, the Early Iron Age, and the Middle Ages. The collection is a valuable scientific material for reconstruction of culture, everyday life, and religious views of the peoples who lived in ancient times on the territory of the steppe and forest-steppe belt of Eurasia.
The museum also has a temporary exhibition, which presents exhibitions on a variety of topics - from significant events in the life of the country and region to personal exhibitions of artwork by various authors.