The National Archaeological Museum contains an important collection of a Greek-Roman antiquities: statues, coins, cameos, ceramics, bronzes and gems. Besides this, it also contains an interesting collection of Egyptian and Assyrian-Babylonian antiquities, kept in the Civic Correr Museum.
The museum, one of the oldest in Europe, was born from the remarkable collection of Greek originals donated by the Patriarch of Aquileia, Giovanni Grimaldi, to the Republic of Venice in 1587. It was opened in 1596 with about two hundred marble objects and was initially located in the vestibule of the Sansovino Library with the name ‘Museo Statuario della Repubblica’.
In 1811 the Sculpture Museum was transferred to the Doge's Palace, together with the Libreria di San Marco, and dismembered: the statues and many decorative marbles were scattered throughout the Palace. However, the various pieces were gathered in the Doge’s apartment in 1846.
Between 1923 and 1926, as heir to the Statuary Museum, the new ‘Archaeological Museum of Venice’ was established in the Royal Palace, donated by the king of the city. Much of the original collection of the Patriarch Grimani, together with the works gathered by important Venetian families up to the 16th century were placed in the present location, on the first floor of the Procuratie Nuove.
The statues, arranged in 12 rooms, were divided by age, theme and artistic trends to give an overview of classical Greek and Roman sculpture from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century A.D. There is also a room dedicated to medals, gems, small bronzes and ivories. The museum was also augmented with many objects from the Veneto region in over the years.
In 1961 the collections were enriched with ceramics, gems and glass from the Museo di San Donato di Zara and with pre and protohistoric bronze objects donated by Giancarlo Ligabue in 1982.
The Archaeological Museum is part of the integrated museum itinerary ‘The Museums of Saint Mark’s Square’; the entrance corresponds with that of the Correr Civic Museum, in St Mark’s Square.