Before the revolution, all local and provincial museums were under the jurisdiction of various departments - statistical committees, archival commissions of the Russian Geographical Society, local societies – natural sciences, historical and archaeological, city governments, zemstvos and individuals.
They had neither administrative management on a national scale, nor a single scientific and methodological guide. By the end of the XIX century , three departments of the Russian Geographical Society operated on the territory of Kazakhstan: Orenburg (centered in Orenburg), which played a special role in the creation of our museum; West Siberian (centered in Omsk) and Turkestan (centered in Tashkent). The active work of the Russian Geographical Society in collecting, processing and distributing geographical, ethnographic and statistical information was accompanied by the creation of museums and libraries. The opening of the museums was facilitated by scientific expeditions to study the region and the activities of local statistical committees and societies of local historians, who needed to have a place where they could "store and systematize the collected materials, as well as exhibit them for public viewing." The leading place in the scientific and local history work of Kazakhstan was occupied by the Orenburg Department, created in 1868. Among its members were such well-known people in the region as the outstanding Kazakh educator IbrayAltynsarin, who devoted a lot of effort to ethnographic research; the clerk Beibitdaulbayev, who was awarded the silver medal of the Geographical Society for a research article on the living conditions of Kazakhs of the Kustanai district for 50 years. In 1895, the Turgai Regional Statistical Committee was established, having its correspondents in Kostanay, Irgiz, Turgai, who studied the history, economy, region, and kept records of the population. The actual members of this committee were, for example, Alektorov, the inspector of public schools of the Turgai region, who had done a lot for the ethnographic study of the region, and the city doctor Kustanaya Mukhamedzhankarabayev.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the public cultural and educational movement has been noticeably revived, and due to the rapid development of local industry and trade, there is a need to study natural resources and local history. The private collection of various rarities and archaeological antiquities is also widespread. There is a need to create a local public museum that would collect and preserve antiquities from destruction due to the ignorance of their accidental owners.
On August 1, 1915, by the decision of the Kostanay City Duma, a museum of natural history was created, originally intended for educational work in the city's schools. The museum is located in a small wooden house with a total area of 12 m2. Initially, the exhibits of the museum were mainly visual aids on zoology, botany, geography, astronomy, handed over by the real school and other educational institutions of the city of Kostanay. The museum was managed by a part-time biology teacher of the Kostanay real School Lebedev Fyodor Petrovich, receiving 25 rubles a month for his work as a curator, a janitor-cleaner helped him in his work, with a salary of 10 rubles. The annual budget of the museum with heating and lighting was 900 rubles allocated by the City Duma. The money at that time was quite good and the replenishment of museum funds with "antiquities from mounds, household items – stone, copper, cast iron, clay, stone women, stuffed animals, etc." was very intensive, the ethnographic and natural geography departments worked, until 1918, when the museum was abandoned to its fate. Since the autumn of 1919, after the arrival of the Red Army, the activities of the museum were restored, but for a very short time, and since 1921, due to famine and devastation, the museum stops working. It was at this time that many exhibits were lost due to neglect. Only in 1922, on the outskirts of the city, the museum reopens its doors to the then few visitors.
But since 1925, it has been moving from room to room, especially difficult for the museum was the time from 1927 to 1937, when it had to move 12 times. Nevertheless, the active research work of the Local History Society, which existed at the museum from 1925 to 1931, made it possible to replenish the museum collections with interesting exhibits, attract visitors with lectures and excursions.
The museum, whose entire staff consisted of the head, 1 researcher and a janitor-cleaner, by that time had a circle of permanent friends and advisers. Only the presence of a cohesive and enthusiastic team of like-minded people made it possible to overcome all that mass of difficulties, hardships, worries and worries that the daily life of the museum was so full of. The excursions were conducted flawlessly and literally to the point of collapse, because there were no funds for special guides, and it was absolutely impossible to allow someone to leave without visiting the museum. They stubbornly "walked" around the entire county, so that there was no corner left, unexplored, not personally inspected, and even returned with a heavy burden of "fees", especially proud if all this was received as a gift from the population. In the icy halls of the museum, a new exposition was hastily completed, timed to coincide with the open annual reporting meeting of the "Council of Friends of the Museum". And in all these deeds and achievements, the main thing was the love for our museum. The same love that underlies the professionalism and creative restlessness of modern museum workers.
Since 1936, the museum has become a regional one, and since January 1937, for the first time in many years, it has received solid allocations and permanent premises in the city center at Lenin St., 60, in a building built in the late XIX century as a drinking establishment, and subsequently became the People's House – the center of the cultural life of the city. The museum received 3 rooms on the second floor. Initially, part of the building was occupied by the regional library and the dormitory of the Dzhambul school. But on March 17, 1938, by the resolution of the Kusanay regional executive Committee, the building with all outbuildings was transferred to the regional museum for permanent use. A stationary exposition on the nature and history of the region was opened in the museum, and active exhibition work was carried out. In addition to exhibitions on local history topics, regional art exhibitions were regularly held, as well as an exhibition dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Red Army), the 20th anniversary of the Kazakh SSR, the 60th anniversary of Stalin and the 70th anniversary of Lenin.
Since that time, the museum's funds begin to be formed, primarily the manuscript fund, and a scientific library is being created. The museum has 3 departments: the Department of Nature, the Department of history, the department of social construction. It should be noted that every study aimed at studying the past of the Kostanay district had to be fiercely defended, especially at the time of its planning (“it's not up to the old days now”). But the objections weakened significantly when the most interesting material appeared in the exhibition, attracting the unflagging interest of visitors. Selfless propaganda work was carried out by employees of the department of social construction, those who, back in the 1920s, conducted a unique continuous survey in terrible conditions, with complete off-road conditions, in order to obtain data on labor, land and crops in each locality, collecting valuable information about the agriculture of the region. The demonstration of the survey results was then timed to the provincial agricultural exhibition. This exhibition is forever imprinted in the memory of its organizers. Experienced expositioners of the 1930s later recalled with a smile their worries and doubts about their first exhibition, how with difficulty they took out rough yellow paper and student paints, the museum staff drew crooked diagrams. Working day and night, we managed to meet the deadline, placed diagrams and museum exhibits at an impromptu exhibition. And none of the visitors found these columns and circles with numbers boring, giving a vivid picture of the state and prospects for the development of agriculture. The museum workers were exhausted, but they were completely happy because the exhibition turned out to be necessary for people and received the approval of the management. And on the part of the gubernatorial executive committee, the approval was also tangible, a little flour and salt were written out for the museum staff, which turned out to be very useful at that hungry time. Since the first years of the museum's existence, the basis of its activities has been research work. A geological survey of the region was conducted, deposits of chromite, nickel, brown ironstone and peat were identified, botanical collections and soil samples were collected, archaeological research was conducted. By the way, residents of nearby villages were often involved in them, which did not cause difficulties, since the local population always responded very willingly to excavations, understood as treasure searches. So, along the way, the museum had to propagandize the need to protect archaeological monuments by the people, mainly to protect them from amateur fans of “digging”. All this multifaceted work was led by the director and the museum Council of 9 people, representatives of the city party committee, the regional plan, the city executive committee, the city council. Zotik Petrovich Tolstykh, one of the oldest local historians of Kostanay, was a representative from the Society for the Study of Kazakhstan in the Museum Council. Pavel Eliseevich Chernyavsky, a local historian and geologist, was the permanent director of the museum for many years. Alexander Ivanovich Reutov, a well-known geobotanist, worked as a part-time researcher at the museum. A faithful assistant to the director and an irreplaceable person in the museum was his wife Chernyavskaya Vassa Andreevna. She was both an edger and a librarian and a cashier – on duty at the museum, head. a living corner. Alexander Ivanovich Nikiforov, one of the oldest Kostanay artists, was the artist and layout designer of the museum. The staff of the museum also included a carpenter, a bookkeeper, a caretaker, a janitor and a photographer. By the way, a self-employed photo lab was organized at the museum to serve the population, but it did not give much profit and was soon closed. So of the paid services provided by the museum of that time, only a carpentry workshop remained, fulfilling some orders of the population, but the agronomic recommendations given by the museum staff were particularly successful. The museum's yard, which was completely neglected, was cleared and by 1941 140 trees and shrubs were planted, and the vegetation on the site was distributed among the zones of forest-steppe, steppe, semi-desert and desert, being used as additional visual aids for schoolchildren. Experimental work with rubber carriers was also carried out here, for example, kok-sagyz, which is very popular in conditions of a shortage of rubber. And foxes, marmots, hedgehogs, wolves, field rodents and birds were gathered in a living corner arranged in 1938. Guinea pigs, white mice, rats were bred and sold, and an aquarium was also arranged. Pursuing quite practical goals, such as obtaining skins for stuffed animals and studying the habits of animals in the Department of nature, the living corner became an attractive place of relaxation for the residents of Kostanay and a prototype of the later opened exotarium. Back in 1938, the first scientific section was organized at the museum – geological (consisting of Chernyavsky, Tolstoy, Shturbabin and Suntsov), and in 1941 – two more: botanical, headed by Professor Nikonov and geographical under the guidance of teacher Kononova. At that time, the Museum had impressive ties with research organizations: the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Peat Institute, the Committee for the Protection of Antiquities and Nature Kaz.SSR, Naurzum Nature Reserve, oblmestprom, oblplan, oblvodkhoz, Kazgeoltrest. Contacts were also maintained with museums: The Museum of the Peoples of the USSR, the Anthropological, Zoological, Moscow State University, the Museum of the Revolution, with the Moscow Zoo, the Central Museum of Kazakhstan, the North Kazakhstan, Semipalatinsk and Chelyabinsk regional museums.
A lot of effort was devoted to the exposition work, new sections were opened “Mining industry of the region and agriculture, the introductory department of the museum - the universe, the anti-religious department and the department of ancient history. The exposition equipment, consisting initially of dark bulky cabinets, glazed bookcases and deep horizontal showcases with a large number of crossbars, was transferred to the funds. And it was replaced by special shields, lightweight showcases – horizontal, vertical and prismatic with an abundance of glass and almost imperceptible bindings. The equipment for traveling exhibitions was also very convenient. The attitude to the exhibition halls was like a home. The aisles between the showcases were covered with woven paths, the halls were decorated with fresh flowers and paintings.
A special stage in the history of the museum was its activity during the Great Patriotic War. The most valuable collections of the Historical Museum, the Museum of the Revolution, and the Museum of Oriental Cultures were evacuated from Moscow to Kostanay. The staff of the Kostanay Museum helped their Moscow colleagues to ensure their safe storage, and subsequently organize an exhibition “The Heroic Past of the Peoples of the USSR” to display these unique historical and cultural relics. Responding to the needs of the time, museum workers have prepared an exhibition on PVHO and exhibitions on local raw materials of the region and the possibilities of their use. In the laboratory at the museum, recommendations were prepared for local artels for the production of colored clays and gypsum - tooth powder, powder, paints; from lake silt – solid fuel. We studied plants: medicinal – for oblaptekoupravleniya; brush and fibrous – for the artel “13 years of October”; fodder algae – for “Zagotskot".
After the war, in 1949, local party and Soviet organizations occupied half of the museum building as a party room and ignored the demands for the return of museum premises for more than 10 years. This led to the damage and death of a large number of exhibits due to the lack of museum repositories, slowed down the development of the museum.
Since the beginning of the 1970s, a scientific accounting system has been introduced in the museum, a lot of work is being done on the scientific description of stock collections and new arrivals. Currently, the Kostanay Regional Museum of Local History is a research, scientific and educational institution that studies the history, culture and nature of the region, coordinator of the development of museum business in the region.
The end of the XX – beginning of the XXI centuries became a time for the museum staff to rethink the place of the museum in modern society, to identify new priority areas of its activities. The cultural and educational function of the museum has gained paramount importance as a determining factor in the formation of the cultural environment of the region and giving a creative character to the leisure of the population, especially young people.