Giandomenico Bertoli was the first collector and specialist of Aquileian antiques. His domestic collection of archaeological finds added to Cassis Faraone and Ritter Záhony family’s ones were collected in their private museum in their villa, located in Monastero, an Aquileian suburb.
The Museo Eugeniano was founded in 1807. It was the first public museum, and it took its name from Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson, who was the Italian viceroy in 1807. The museum was in the basilica’s baptistery and in Pagani Church. To these original collections, it was added Gerolamo de Moschettini’s one. This archaeologist was responsible for the Aquileian excavations between 1815 and 1831, and during these years he hid many sculptures and inscriptions. In 1873 the city of Aquileia opened the Museo Patrio della Città, , that became theImperial Regio Museo dello Statofew years later. In 1882, in fact, Aquileia became part of the Habsburg Empire. The museum was located in the Cassis Faraone family’s villa, where the Museo Archeologico Nazionale is still located nowadays.
The opening of the Caesareum Museum Aquileiense - Imperial Regio Museo dello Stato took place on August 3, 1882, according to the will of Austrian emperor Franz Joseph and in the presence of archduke Carlo Ludovico. The first director of the museum was Enrico Maionica, an archaeologist from Trieste who studied at University of Vienna. Enrico Maionica succeded in creating a public institution that could collect the finds, avoiding that they got lost. In 1898 it began the construction of the Galleries. The Galleries were built to contain the new many archaeological finds that couldn’t be collected in the villa.
In the beginning, the finds were organised, according to archaeological criteria, by materials: inscriptions, sculptures, and little objects, called Antikaglien.
The museum has been a place where collect, preserve, and show Aquileian antiques since its foundation. In order to discover new finds to enrich the museum collection with, Aquileia improved the activity of archaeological research on its territory, and in 1983 the city published the Fundkarte von Aquileja, a map of the discoveries made by then.
Giovanni Battista Brusin became the director of the Regio Museo Archeologico and he worked there till the post-WWII period. Giovanni Battista Brusinwas born in Aquileia in 1883, and he studied at the University of Innsbruck. He gave the museum and the excavations a new perspective, promoting new studies and restoration works on the main monuments of the Roman city. Thanks to his work, in collaboration with the Associazione Nazionale per Aquileia – an association born in 1929 that aims to protect and promote Aquileian archaeological heritage – people became able to visit those monuments.
During the post-WWII period, the museum was completely renovated. Especially, in 1954 began an important work of reorganization of the collections. Then, also the second floor became part of the exhibition itinerary, and the offices and the library were relocated. The Galleries were reorganized and became bigger, thanks to a new quadriporticus. There was located the “mosaicoteca”, a collection of the most significant mosaics. Some mosaics were also used to build the floor of the ground floor and of some outside porticos. Using mosaics to build a floor was a tradition in the early decades of the Twentieth Century.
They also build some warehouses, close to the Galleries, in order to store all the archaeological finds that hadn’t a place yet. In fact, thanks to the work of Luisa Bertacchi, who became director of the museum in 1959 after Valnea Scrinari, it was possible to continue the activity of research and cataloguing on the Aquileia territory.
In the nineties, some sections were renovated, and the second floor became the “treasure” of the museum, collecting all the most precious finds and the numismatic collection.
A new project of architectural restoration and reorganization has been developed in recent years, and it made some significant changes in the exhibition itinerary.