In a historic village museum about 300 miles from Moscow, a late 18th-century building houses a museum dedicated to one spectacularly creamy local dairy product. Vologda butter, a rich and nutty spread, has earned public endorsements, prestigious awards, and now boasts a collection of exhibits, artifacts, and documents that honors its heritage.
Nikolai Vasilyevich Vereshchagin, a man from Vologda, Russia, invented his hometown’s namesake butter after taking inspiration from Normandy butter. He first tasted the delicacy at the 1867 Paris Exposition, but was denied the recipe. Upon returning home, he established a dairy operation in a village outside Vologda and perfected his craft. He developed a rich, sweet, nutty product using specific techniques—first, running the milk through a cream separator twice (instead of the usual approach of once), then heating the cream to just below boiling point before churning.
After Vereshchagin showed up at a subsequent Paris Exposition with his new product (then named Parisian butter) he took home the gold medal. The rise of Communism led to the fall of Parisian butter’s title, which was changed to Vologda butter. As the good’s fame grew, counterfeiters abounded, and Russia’s government cracked down. In 2010, it gave Vologda butter protected designation of origin status, meaning that only butter made in Vologda could bear the title.
The Vologda Butter Museum, located inside the Vologda Open Air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography, tells this exceptional butter’s story through its depiction of regional agriculture, industry, and progress. Inside, visitors can explore the butter-making process over time, learn about ancient Russia’s relationship with the precious substance, and compare a rudimentary hand churn to a modern milk separator. Anyone desiring an even more intimate encounter can try out life as a local villager. The museum offers an interactive program that includes a segment called “The butter doesn’t make itself.”