There are two major public museums in Turkmenistan, namely in Ashgabat and Mary. The Mary regional museum was initially opened in 1984 in a large brick building constructed in 1908 and said originally to belong to a Russian brick factory owner. The upper floor boasts an extensive permanent display of Turkmen ethnography with additional sections on the Baluch and early Russian involvement in this region. Future galleries will focus on flora and fauna, and the impact of wars on local history.
In 1998 the museum opened a new permanent exhibition of archaeological material displayed in Turkish cases paid through a grant from the United Nations. Most of the displays derived either from Victor Sarianidi’s excavations at the Bronze Age sites of Gonur-depe and Togolok 21, in the northern part of the Merv oasis, or various Sasanian-Islamic discoveries at Merv. Many of these objects are unpublished.
The Bronze Age displays include several small imported south-east Iranian carved softstone bowls and bottles (Gonur, Togolok 21), a curious metre-long softstone sceptre with a hollow bronze head (Gonur), a square bronze stamp seal and several clay figurines showing two-humped camels, local ceramic copies of Iranian sheet-metal spouted jars (Gonur), a lapis bead necklace found around the neck of an eighteen-year-old girl (Togolok 21) and an Indus etched carnelian bead (Altyn-depe).
Later Sasanian objects from Merv include a spherical etched carnelian bead and an unpublished decorated silver two-pronged fork fragment of a type hitherto only known from Iran (Qasr-i Abu Nasr) and Mesopotamia (Nineveh).
Mary museum is generally open seven days a week, 9.00-18.00, with an admission charge currently set at US$1 per foreigner. The museum is located in the city centre at 1 Komsomoloskaya str., 745400 Mary.