Performing an important function of conserving cultural heritage and strengthening international relations, museums keep unique pieces of fine and applied art, as well as other evidence of human achievements, saving traditions and attainments of different peoples.
To date, in the Republic of Uzbekistan, 114 departmental museums operate, with the Ministry for Culture and Sports system comprising 98 of them, of which 70 percent are located at the cultural heritage sites.
The Kokand city museum of local lore is one of the oldest in the country. It was founded in 1925 by the decision of the Ferghana District Executive Committee, on the premises of the palace of Khudayar-khan, the Khan of Kokand, – the surviving part of the Urda, the pearl of the Kokand city, which amazes its visitors with its splendour even today.
Until 1929 the Museum was called District, from 1929 – Inter-district, and from 1959 to the present day its official name is the Kokand City Museum of Local Lore. During the World War II the building was converted into a hospital, and the museum closed. Once the museum reopened (in 1959), the work to replenish its assets was resumed.
Erected in the XIX century, the Khudayar-khan’s palace with its multiple courtyard layout covers an area of four hectares. A wide passageway leads to the front gate on the eastern side. On the gate’s portal, large Arabic letters read: “The Central Castle of Saeed Muhammad Khudayar-khan”. The palace is built of baked brick by local masters: mullah Suyarkul, usto Solihoja, and Fazylhoja, usto from Bukhara, led by architect Mir Ubaydullo. The main portal, the entrance gate, and the ceremonial chamber are lavishly ornamented, while other buildings feature simpler decor. At the centre of the eastern portal a turret is built to emphasize the grandeur of the entrance. The gate of carved wood was subsequently restored by master Kadirjan Khaidarov; the portal side is decorated with altar niches. Stalactite recesses on the veranda consist of a row of carved wooden pillars with stalactite capitals, spherical bases and carved plaster designs. The hall ceilings are painted with floral designs, with stalactite recesses in the centre. The upper section of the chambers has wooden pillars with stalactite capitals. The veranda walls feature ornamented altar niches.
Currently, the palace-museum, which is considered a cultural heritage site, hosts an exposition covering 1,226.2 square metres; its assets contain 34,000 exhibits telling about history, natural environment, culture, art, ethnography, and literature of the land.
In 2011, the Uzbekmuzei Republican Foundation and the Museum experts developed a new scientific concept for the Kokand City Museum of Local Lore, and renewed its display. Now it has sections dedicated to archeology, numismatics, calligraphy, book-making, armaments, ethnography, fine and applied art. The central section of the Museum houses an exposition on socio-political situation in the ÕVII-ÕIÕ cc. Kokand.
In the ÕVIII-ÕIÕ centuries Kokand had more than ten flourishing crafts: metal chasing, wood carving, pottery, jewellery-making, weaving, the manufacturing of silk products, embroidery, printed cloth, etc. High-quality unique products wrought by skilled craftsmen are well represented in the Museum collection. Among the exhibits are cannons, guns, knives, arrows, shields… Far beyond Kokand people knew elegant bronze water jars, which could be purchased only in the city markets. The currency of Kokand was gold, silver and copper coins minted in the city, which can also be found in the Museum. Sometimes people also used gold and silver coins of Bukhara, Iran, and Afghanistan, as well as silver roubles of Russia, which is the evidence of developing trade relations.
Since ancient times, Kokand was famous for its singers, dancers, and poets. In the ÕVIII century, poets such as Gozi, Nizami, and Hukandi were known in the literary circles of Kokand. Majmuat ushshuaro, a book on poets by Fazli Namangani, contains information about 75 poets of that time. The museum keeps manuscripts of famous poets and writers, as well as missive letters, decrees, and correspondence dating to the rule of Madalikhan, Sheralikhan and Khudayar-khan, along with the works of literature classics such as Khofiz Sherozi, Abdurahman Jami, Alisher Navoi, Fuzuli, and Bedil; manuscripts of local authors, books produced lithographically, and calligraphy specimens.
Russian traveller F. Fedchenko, who visited Kokand in the second half of the XIX century, was amazed at development of handicrafts here, in particular, at the art of making paper, and wrote about it extensively in his book: “The Kokand people, whose craftsmanship brought worldwide fame to Turkestan, are also known to make high-quality paper”. According to him, paper factories “in Central Asia exist only in the Kokand khanate” (1, p.100). Paper was produced in a factory located in the Mui Muborak mahalla, near the Urda. Later, by the orders of Khudayar-khan, it was relocated to Kalacha village in Sokh Valley. The Kokand paper was highly valued not only in Turkestan, but also in the Middle East. Its specimens are also well presented in the Museum.
The Museum’s fine art collection features unique works of artists of Western Europe, Russia, and Uzbekistan, from the XVII century to the present day. These are the paintings by A. Fobens, B. Peterson, P. Korton, A. Prokofiev, B. Botkin, Y. Klever, P. Sukhodolskiy, U. Tansykbaev, A. Abdullaev, Y. Taldikin, V. Gofurov, K. Mamaziyaev, V. Zasivenko, T. Akhmadaliev, M. Tkachenko, M. Fazylov, and others.
The Kokand City Museum has four branches: the Hamza house-museum; the Mukimi hujra-museum; the Kadirjan Khaidarov house-museum; and the Jomeh applied arts museum. In the Hamza house-museum and the Mukimi hujra-museum one can learn about literary environment; in the Kadirjan Khaidarov house-museum – about the achievements of the Kokand school of woodcarving. The Jomeh applied arts museum shows items of traditional crafts and architecture. The scope of academic research is very wide, since the main purpose of the Museum is the study of nature, history, ethnography, art, culture, crafts, and other aspects of life in the Ferghana Valley in their relationship.
In recent years, scholars and researchers focus keenly on studying the history of Kokand city and the Kokand Khanate. Under the guidance of historian H. Anarbaev, they take part in the “Kokand” archaeological field work project run by the Institute of Archaeology under the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan.
In a year, the museum and its branches see more than 70,000 visitors, including foreign tourists, amateurs of art, school and university students. In collaboration with civil society organizations, culture centres, libraries, secondary schools and universities, the Museum arranges exhibitions, conferences, seminars, thematic discourses, meetings with the Kokand artists and culture promoters, and organizes shows, contests, and festivals.