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The Civic Museum of Modena was founded in 1871 as a single museum and has been housed in the Palazzo dei Musei since 1886.

Its founder and first director, Carlo Boni, created a museum characterized by an apparent heterogeneity, which was in fact the result of an intentional plan designed to “house and preserve anything that might be of interest to the entire population”. The next directors, Arsenio Crespellani and Luigi Alberto Gandini, would continue his work, significantly expanding of the cultural heritage.

The Museum’s 19th century origins are highlighted in the current display arrangement (set up in 1990), which largely maintains the 19th century décor, recreating a museum style that is very unique in the Italian and European context today.

The creation of the city museum was supported and promoted by a learned middle class, who in an effort to prevent the dispersion of the local archaeological, historical and artistic heritage in the years immediately following the unification of the country, entrusted the museum, through bequests and donations, with its legacy and the legacy of its era.

In the wake of the debate on evolution that characterized that time, the Museum received Bronze Age artifacts from the Terramare that offered brand new scenarios of prehistory and the oldest human settlements in the Modena area.

With a view to providing information that would further understanding of past societies, the archaeological collections were presented alongside ethnographic material gathered from travels and experiences in distant lands. Through connections with important international expositions and the nascent European museums of decorative art, in the following decades the Museum developed its own didactic mission, creating collections that featured techniques, forms and models of the most varied types and materials.


Over the years, from the 1800s until today, the Museum’s heritage has been enriched with new archaeological finds, ethnological collections and works of art, thanks to excavations, donations, acquisitions and purchases. The material collected from excavations of the terramare and the Roman city, the Yanomami collection and the paintings and the silverware of the Sernicoli collection, donated to the Museum in 2007, are tangible testaments to this uninterrupted growth.

The Museum remains deeply committed to continuing the work of its founders, with the awareness that civic identity is reinforced by examining the past and preserving its memory, but also by maintaining an innovative approach to scientific research and public relations.