During the siege of Leningrad (1941-44), all the artworks in the Hermitage were removed and stored safely out of harm’s way, but tours continued with guides describing the works that used to fill the now empty galleries.
“Hermitage guides gave soldiers from the front tours of empty picture frames, describing in elaborate detail the paintings they had once held. Most audacious of all was a literary conference held at the height of the blockade, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi. Hundreds of starving people gathered, in the depths of winter, to listen to a poetry recital as shells shook the building to its foundations. The museum had been fortunate in having a store of lumber with which to make its evacuation crates. Afterwards, the surplus made coffins for its dead.”