The Cultural Institution “Hrodna State Historical and Archaeological Museum” is one of the oldest and largest museums in the Republic of Belarus. The museum was founded in 1920, and in 1922 it was opened to the public and was located in three rooms in the building of then town municipality.
Later the Magistrate donated to the museum the premises of the Old Castle – the royal palace of the XVIth century. The Old Castle in Hrodna was built in the Renaissance style for the King Stefan Batory by the architect Santi Gucci from Florence on the ruins of defensive walls, towers and foundations of the castle of the Grand Duke Vitawt. There were 10 vaulted rooms on the ground floor of the castle that housed the arsenal, the office, the treasury and other services. The first floor was occupied by the royal chambers – ceremonial and residential ones combined in a typical front suite of rooms. In the attic one could find the premises of the second floor. Over the following centuries the palace was heavily damaged and rebuilt several times, it resulted in simplification of its architectural features.
In the 1930s during archaeological excavations on the Castle Hill, in the historical center the ruins of stone buildings of the XII-XVII thth centuries were discovered by curator of the museum Yazep Yadkowsky.The museum collection significantly increased by adding these archaeological finds.
During the Great Patriotic War the work of the Museum was discontinued, the palace suffered from bombing and fire. The Museum was reopened in 1944 and got the status of the regional one, and in 1945 it became Hrodna State Historical and Archaeological Museum. The city museum of natural history became its branch, which in the 1950s moved to the Old Castle and became a regional nature department. During the 1940-1980-ies 6 general expositions (21 room) of the departments of regional history and nature were created in the Old Castle.
On the territory of the Castle Hill one can see the ruins of the monument of Hrodna architectural school of the 12th century – the Lower Church and the remains of defensive walls of the Upper Castle of the times of Great Duke Vitawt. In 1967 Hrodna Old Castle got a status of a historical and archaeological reserve “Castle Hill”.
In 1991, the museum had got one more building – the New Castle, or the Royal Palace, an architectural monument of the Rococo style. The construction of the New Castle, designed K.F.Piopelman, lasted from 1737 to 1742 . It was erected on the nearby to the Castle hill, opposite the Old Castle. The plan of the Palace resembled the Russian letter “P” and created a large front courtyard – a so called court of honour. The main entrance led into a large Hall of the Guard decorated with fresco drawings. Close by there were the first Reception Hall of the King (the Oval Hall), the Senators’ and the Ambassadors’ Halls. All of them were decorated with elegant stucco cartouches and rocailles – grotto works, fresco imitation of architectural details. Royal apartments were in the right wing of the palace, and in the left – the court premises.
Now this is where the museum exhibitions, acquainting visitors with a number of museum collections: weapons, arts and crafts, zoological and entomological ones, as well as the exhibition halls are located .
In 1994 the Museum of Hardnytsa history was established (in Eliza Azheshka street). It is located in a separate building, erected in the second half of the XVIII century, which is the only surviving building of the twenty so-called” basnyatskya houses” (“basnyaki” is the military guard of Hrodna royal economy (a territorial-administrative unit). Today it is called the Master’s House – the first example of standardazed residential premises in Belarus, a monument of Republic importance.
Since March 2014 the city House-Museum of Maxim Bahdanovich was reorganised and became a literary department of Hrodna Regional Historical and Archaeological Museum. Its exposition is located in a wooden house built in 1888, which is a historical monument of local importance and is included in the list of historical and cultural heritage of the Republic of Belarus as a part of the historical center of Hrodna. The materials describing the life and creative work of the famous Belarusian poet Maxim Bahdanovich, literary and social movement in Belarus at the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth centuries, creative heritage of talented poets and writers of Hrodna region, as well as objects of urban life at the turn of the XXth century are exhibited there.
Hrodna State Historical and Archaeological Museum is a regional scientific-methodical center on the creation of public and state museums, their various activities admistration, and the upgrading of the state museums staff in the region.