The Hermitage Museum is the world culture encyclopaedia written in Russian. It is a unique museum that combines a beautiful art collection with the memory of Russian national history. This is a museum of culture, a museum of art, a museum of Russian history, and also the museum of Russian architecture. The whole Hermitage is where the heritages of different nations were collected and displayed. It is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. The buildings that the Hermitage occupies are brilliant examples of European architecture. The walls of these buildings have also seen a great number of important historical events and almost all history of the Russian Empire took place within them - from Peter the Great to Nicolay II. Every visitor can feel the force of Russian history here. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors.