The construction of the museum began in 1996, when Anatoliy Saltykov, the head of local government of Izhevsk, adopted a resolution to found a municipal museum in honour of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the general weapons designer and the first honorary citizen of the capital of the Udmurt Republic. On May 7, 1996 an open competition for the best museum project was announced. The competition was won by Prikamproject Institute with P. Fomin as a leading architect. The general building contractor was Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Management of Special Construction on Area 8”. JSC “Russian United Energy System” made a considerable investment to the construction of the museum.
In 2004, the not-yet-built museum was transferred to the Udmurt Republic. According to the Decree of the Government of the Udmurt Republic №1347-p originally it was named “The M. Kalashnikov Museum”. The opening of the museum was timed to the 85th anniversary of the legendary designer and took place on November 4, 2004, on the Day of Statehood of the Udmurt Republic. The honourable members of the ceremonial opening were Alexander Volkov, the President of the Udmurt Republic, Anatoly Chubais, the chairman of the board of directors of JSC “Russian United Energy System” and Mikhail Kalashnikov himself. From the very first days of its work, the museum began to do extensive research and promote the achievements of Izhevsk gunsmiths of different epochs. Therefore in December 2004 the museum was renamed into “The Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms”.
The total area of the museum complex is 4000 square metres. The area of exhibition halls is more than 1000 square metres. The Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms is one of the most attractive sites for tourists in the capital of the Udmurt Republic. The Kalashnikov Museum is a regular member of regional, pan-Russian and international museum and touristic forums. It is also a participant of pan-Russian exhibitions, such as “ROST-2005”, “ROST-2006”, “ROST-2007”. Since 2005, the museum has been a member of the Russian Union of Travel Industry.
The Kalashnikov Museum annually participates in the Pan-Russian Museum Festival Intermuzey (Moscow). In 2005, the museum was awarded with the Special Jury Prize for the best museum debut.
In 2008, the Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms was registered in the Pan-Russian Book of Honour.
In 2009, the Kalashnikov Museum was awarded with the badge of honour of the Government of Russia “For active participation in patriotic education of citizens of the Russian Federation”.
In 2012, the Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms obtained a license from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Udmurt Republic. Since then, it has been an institution of culture and supplementary education. There is a permanent exhibition named “Laboratory of Scientific Entertainments”. The museum offers educational programs for nursery school pupils, schoolchildren, students and adults.
The general concept of the museum, its development strategy and the permanent exhibition were developed in 2004 by V. Dukelskiy, N. Nikishin, A. Lebedev – the experts of the Museum Design Laboratory of the Research Institute of Cultural studies MKRF (Moscow). The museum work is focused on presentation of weapons production, interaction of man with the world of weapons, as well as understanding the role of Kalashnikov and other Izhevsk weapons designers in the national cultural heritage.
The design project of the main exposition “A Man’s Destiny”, devoted to life story and creative work of Mikhail Kalashnikov, was fulfilled by Artefactum design studio under the supervision of Yuriy Kalmykov (Yekaterinburg). Museum guests visited a number of halls: the space of life, the space of creative work and the space of glory of the famous weapons designer. In its original form the exhibition has worked for 15 years.
In 2019, at the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms renovated the exposition on the basis of the project, designed in collaboration with Ural Regional Museum Design Institute (Yekaterinburg).
Besides the permanent exposition, the museum developed a movable exhibition “Legendary Kalashnikov”. For the past decade it has been to a great number of regions: from Sakhalin to Kaliningrad. In 2017, the renovated version of the movable exhibition was presented in the Tula State Weapons Museum, having launched its anniversary tour. At the moment the Kalashnikov Museum in cooperation with the Ural Regional Museum Design Institute are working on its content updating.
The Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Complex of Small Arms constantly opens thematic temporary exhibitions, devoted to the key topic and revealing new aspects of Izhevsk gunsmiths creative work in general.
In 2007, in connection with the 200th anniversary of Izhevsk weapons and the 60th anniversary of the AK, the museum opened a large-scale exhibition “The Glory of Russian Weapons”. Among its partners were representatives of Izhevsk defense factories, historians and designers of the Udmurt Republic, experts of the Museum Design Laboratory of the Research Institute of Cultural Studies of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation (Moscow), artists of Artefactum design studio (Yekaterinburg), multimedia centres programmers of Udmurt State University and Kalashnikov Izhevsk State Technical University. The exhibition was opened due to archeological work on the territory of the oldest enterprise of the city (Izhevsk Weapons Factory) and huge research work in the archives and museums of the Udmurt Republic and St. Petersburg. The anniversary exhibition covered the area of 400 square metres in four museum halls and aroused great interest.
Over 15 years of its work, the Kalashnikov Museum and Exhibition Complex has presented about 100 thematic temporary exhibitions related to the main topic. The following exhibitions aroused the greatest interest among the public:
“The Weapons Designer” (weapons designer Evgeniy Dragunov),
“Nikonov. A Step to the XXI Century” (weapons designer Gennadiy Nikonov),
“Kalashnikov Jr.” (firearms designer Victor Kalashnikov),
“A Tribute to Masters” (the 50th anniversary of the Leonard Vasev School of Artistic Weapons Production),
“By Chisel, Pen and Brush…” (the 50th anniversary of engraver Leonard Vasev),
“The Izhevsk Hunting Rifle”,
“The Weapons of Victory”,
“AK-47. 70 Years in Service to the Motherland”,
“Everyday Life and Holidays of Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant”,
“Weapons of Izhevsk Arms Factories”,
“Mikhtim – the Planet of Creativity”,
“The Izhevsk Rifle”,
“Stalin’s Ten Blows”,
“Izhevsk Weapons Factory: from the Flintlock Gun to the Kalash”.
“The exhibition clearly demonstrates the power of will, intelligence, talent and mastery of the weapons designer, revealed the image of another legendary person that our region is so proud of.” (about the exhibition “The Weapons Designer”, devoted to Evgeniy Dragunov)
“We are really happy that Russia (Izhevsk) paid a tribuite to its great innovators. Their path was hard, and rewards were small. Such a museum is worth to tell about such people!” (about the exhibition “Nikonov. A Step to the XXI Century”)
“The culture of artistic weapons production… where can you learn about this phenomenon? How to pass this experience on from one generation to another? Every teacher knows: you’d better see it once, than hear many times. We’re strongly impressed and respectful to the masters.” (about the exhibition “School of Gunsmiths”, devoted to the 50th anniversary of the Leonard Vasev School of Artistic Weapons Production)
“I was expecting to see an ordinary exhibition of weapons, but in fact you helped me realise how much effort it took to create weapons of Victory. Thank you so much for reminding us, young people, that we need to value and preserve our history… It was interesting to watch weapons used to protect our Motherland.” (about the exhibition “The Weapons of Victory”)
“People in the Udmurt Republic are not only hospitable, they are really great! Everything is so interesting here!” (about the exhibition “The Izhevsk Hunting Rifle”)
“With the greatest pleasure we came closer to the history of our Motherland, the Udmurt Republic and its legendary weapons constructors… behind the simple forms there’s hard work of generations of gunsmiths. Thank you so much for the history!.. The exhibition make us feel proud of the country. For sure, there are so many gifted people in our country!” (about the exhibition “Companions-in-Arms”)