During our stay in Baku, we were taken to visit various museums. I would not say that they are all very fascinating, but they more or less have left some impressions on me.
First let start off with the Independence Museum of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan State Theater Museum, which are under the same building (photo above). The first one contains information about modern Azerbaijan while the second one demonstrates the formation of the national theatre. To be honest they were both a bit underwhelming to me personally. The content are plain facts and the exhibits are not impressive enough to inspire me. It was not very visitor-friendly as well because the museum does not have a very good ventilation system – making it rather hot and stuffy. Also photo-taking is not allowed, which could be inconvenient for visitors when they find something interesting and want to record it down. But at least the museum has given me a brief introduction to Azerbaijani History. Moving on to the Gala Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, which is a little bit further from the city centre and also harder to find since the road signs are not very clear. The museum mainly exhibits the dwelling places of the Absheron ancient inhabitants. For me, this one is more interesting since I can see many monuments including stone carving, ancient housing, mosques, barns and so on. Even though it was slightly disappointing that some of them are just artificial copies, it is still absorbing to have an idea of how the Gala village looks like in the past. They even have real animals inside the barns like sheep, pony and camels. It was the first time I have ever seen a camel so it was kind of exciting for me. It would be better if they could put clearer signs in English under each monument – making it easier for international visitors to understand.
Lastly, it is my favourite out of all of them – the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan. It is the largest museum in Azerbaijan and it is built inside the former mansion of the Azerbaijani oil magnate and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. The museum has a collection of more than 2000 exhibits from different parts of the Azerbaijani history, ranging from the Stone Age to the post-Soviet times. Out of all the museums, I gained the most from this one because firstly, it has the largest collection of exhibits; the exhibits all have very clear tags in English and they also have exhibition boards that give us a more comprehensive explanation about everything. The part that I was drawn to the most has to be the handicrafts during the antique period, like some of the bronze figures of horse and other animals. There are also little glass bottles with necks thinner than my fingers. It is amazing how people in the past have the skills to produce products with that much details and good qualities. Also, I can honestly say that the aesthetic of the jewelries and patterns on clothing can still fit into nowadays fashion trends.
Another highlight about the museum is the residential rooms. First floor is for exhibition and the second floor is where they display the house of Taghiyev. Therefore apart from the exhibits, visitors can also take a look at the home of a local tycoon in the past. Different rooms are constructed based on different styles. My favourite is the Oriental Room with a mix of Chinese and Middle Eastern style. The room has so many glorious features like large plate glass windows, giant chandeliers, beautiful gold carvings on the walls and ceiling and much more. It is absolutely jaw dropping and awe-inspiring.
After visiting all these museums, I definitely had a deeper understanding of the Azerbaijani history. However, I think I might absorb more information if I could walk around in the museum alone, listen to all the recordings and read all the exhibition boards, as the tours that they organized for us are rather fast. Sometimes I would like to take a couple more pictures and the guide would already have left to the other room already. It could be difficult for me especially when there are no English signs and I have to depend on the guide’s explanation in order to understand everything (and I am too shy to ask her to repeat everything she said). All in all, these museum tours allow me to discover the rich history of Azerbaijan. I would highly recommend you to visit the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan. Even if you are not interested in the Azerbaijani history (which you totally should!), just go and see the house!