National Archaeological Museum of Parma
A short history
Home - Museums - Parma Museum - A short history

Dear visitor, this museum is no longer managed by this Archaeological Superintendence of Emilia-Romagna
For further information please contact the following telephone or email

The National Archaeological Museum of Parma
Palazzo della Pilotta, Piazza della Pilotta
Phone +39 0521.233718

Established in 1760 by Don Filippo di Borbone in the Capital of the Duchy, coinciding with the beginning of the exploration of the Roman municipium of Veleia in 1760, the Ducale Museo d’Antichità (Ducal Museum of Antiquity), now called Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum), was the first and for a long time the only example of an institution connected with archaeological activities in Northern Italy. Since the first half of the 191h century, the Museum has been housed in the south-west wing of the Palazzo della Pilotta, an impressive complex which used to house court facilities and which was built by making several extensions around the Corridore, designed by Giovanni Boscoli da Montepulciano for Duke Ottavio Farnese, in about 1580.
The Museum was originally housed in a modest building leaning against the Pilotta Palace, which originally exhibited numismatic collections of the Farnese dukes.
Initially, in addition to gathering fragments of the Trajan Tabula Alimentaria -an inscription carved in bronze which was discovered by chance in 1748 in Veleia- and to another engraved bronze from Veleia -Lex de Gallia Cisalpína - it also featured bronze figures, furnishings and coins coming from the archaeological excavations. On the other hand, the Veleian sculptures -the twelve marble statues of the Julius-Claudian cycle from the Basilica -and their respective inscriptions were assigned to the Gallery which had been recently established in the Accademia.

Marble statues of the Julius-Claudian cycle from the Basilica of Veleia

Since its foundation, the Museum has been a reference point for the archaeological researches carried out in the Duchy territory. It soon took on the role of district museum, thanks to the acquisition, towards the end of the 18th century, of finds coming from the explorations promoted by a society of noble Parmesans in the ancient Luceria site, near Ciano d’Enza.
In 1803 the French Administration, for the benefit of Paris, stripped the Museum of its most prestigious pieces which, however, were returned after the Congress of Vienna. Meanwhile, it housed sculptures from the Palatino, which had been part of the Farnese collections, and other sculptures coming from Rome which before were to be found among the antiques belonging to the Gonzaga family of Guastalla.
The collection of medals which has existed since the last decades of the 18th century, with its nucleus coming from Veleia, was enriched by further acquisitions.
It was Duchess Maria Luigia who, after locating it in new premises, mostly enriched the Museum by purchasing new numismatic collections, Greek, Italiot, and Etruscan pottery, and Egyptian artefacts.

Cinerary urns from Parma's terramara (left) - Roman bronzes from Borgo delle Orsoline (right)

Moreover, under the dominion of Maria Luigia (1815~1847), the process of building renewal led to the discovery in Parma of the Roman theatre, the amphitheatre, and large stretches of the ancient city structure, with consequent increase of the collections.
In 1866, the Accademia finally yielded the statues coming from the Basilica in Veleia.
Immediately after the national unification, thanks to the researches carried out by Luigi Pigorini and Pellegrino Strobel, one of Northern Italy’s most remarkable collections of prehistoric remains was established.

The Museum’s current arrangement dates back to 1965. The creation of technical and didactic workshops and new exhibition areas is planned in the wing designed to replace the Cavallerizza building, which was destroyed during World War Il.
On the first floor, in addition to remains from Veleia and collections acquired during the 19th century, marbles from the Gonzaga and Farnese collections are exhibited. Among these, there are some particularly interesting pieces, for instance the head of Zeus which, similarly to the colossi in basanite exhibited in the Pinacoteca (Art Gallery), came from Francesco Farnese’s archaeological excavations on the Palatino, as well as a splendid copy of Prassitele’s Eros.
The relief of dignitary Amenemone (dating back to the Amenophis III period, 1405-1370 B.C.) among the Egyptian pieces and a kylikes made by Oltos (520-510 B.C.) among the Greek vases, are of remarkable importance.

Stag's antler combs from terramara of Castiglione dei Marchesi, Fidenza (PR) - Middle Bronze Age

In the section dedicated to Veleia, one can see the renowned Tabula Alimentaria dating back to the age of Trajan, whose numerous fragments were re-assembled, and which is still the largest inscription on bronze dating back to the Roman civilisation. It lists, for promotional purposes, the names of the landowners of the Veleia area and boundary territories who financially supported the humanitarian politics of the Empire. In the same section, one can admire the Lex de Gallia Cisalpina, relevant to the judiciary powers of the officers operating in the province, the twelve statues of the Julius-Claudian cycle, inscriptions, bronze furnishings and the bronze figures, among which is the portrait of a young lady, who can probably be identified as Baebia Basilla, mentioned in an inscription, which is one of the best examples of the Italic figurative expression dating back to the early Augustean period.
The ground floor houses the prehistoric and protohistoric sections, including materials coming from Bronze Age settlements (terramare) of the Parmesan area and the burial complex dating back to the second Iron Age from Fraore.

Gold jewels from Teatro Regio

It also houses a section dedicated to Parma and its territory in the Roman Age with sculptures from the Forum and the theatre, architectural marble pieces, inscriptions and funerary monuments, bronzes, mosaics, and the late antique jewellery coming from a store-room discovered while laying the foundations of the Teatro Regio (Royal Theatre). Near these materials, one can admire the Longobardic gold works coming from the princely tomb of Borgo della Posta.