The Torcello Museum was established in 1870 thanks to Luigi Torelli - former Prefect of Venice - who bought and restored the 14th century Palazzo del Consiglio.
Torelli acquired the building with the aim of making it the ideal place to house the artifacts and art objects found on the island and in the nearby areas, both in the lagoon and on the mainland. After some restoration work, the property was donated to the Province of Venice in 1872, entrusting the management of the collection to Nicolò Battaglini, who was already an associate of Torelli. Fifteen years later Cesare Augusto Levi (a scholar and antiquity enthusiast) succeeded Battaglini, and continued the work of cataloging the objects found there, as well as introducing objects from his personal collection into the Museum.
In order to expand the exhibit space of the Museum, Cesare Augusto Levi purchased and arranged the nearby Palazzo dell'Archivio in 1887, turning in into the Estuary Museum. The Museum was inaugurated on the 14th of May, 1889.
Luigi Canton, an explorer of the necropolis at Adria, took over from Levi 1909, and most probably enriched the Torcello Museum with some exhibits from Adria itself. Between 1928 and 1930 he called for a reorganization of the collection under Adolfo Calligari, the new director until 1948; Calligari also devoted himself to the inventory, cataloging, restoration and the publication of the Il Museo di Torcello catalog in 1930. From 1949 the management was entrusted to Professor Giulia Fogolari who - with the help of Dr. Guido Zattera - looked after the Museum until 1997.
Thanks to a radical restoration project supported by the Province,the Palazzo del Consiglio officially inaugurated the Medieval and Modern Section in 1974, while the Archive Building officially opened the Archaeological Section in the summer of 1990.
Outside (between the two buildings of the Archaeological Section and the Medieval and Modern Section) are various architectural elements where some inscriptions, mostly from the territory of Altino, can be found. Other stone artefacts (urns, altars, memorial stones and funerary monuments) are deposited in the loggia on the ground floor of the Archive Building.
The Medieval and Modern Section
The Medieval and Modern Section of the Museum - located inside the Palazzo del Consiglio - displays stone exhibits and architectural fragments from the lagoon area, telling the story of Torcello from the 6th to the 16th century. The oldest pieces show the prevalence of the decorative motif of the cross while the 9th and 10th centuries present a decorative repertoire with animals, often fantastic, and complex and refined plant motifs.
Inside you can see tiles, inscriptions and mosaic and sculptural fragments from the Byzantine to the Romanesque eras, 15th century Venetian ceramics and wooden sculptures, as well as the paintings of the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Monochromes with stories of the Virgin and the stories of Santa Cristina of the Veronese workshop, from the Church of Sant'Antonio of Torcello. In particular we note: the altar frontal in gilded silver (first half of the 13th century), the 12th century mosaic heads of Angels, Christ and Prophets belonging to the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta of Torcello, the Penelo or Banner of Confraternity of Santa Fosca di Torcello, embroidered on silk with silver threads by an anonymous Venetian of 1366, which depicts the virgin with the child between two saints, probably Santa Fosca and Santa Maura as well as Santa Fosca dead, the guildied wooden and polychrome high-relief of a mid-15th century Venetian-Tuscan sculptor from the Church of Santa Fosca di Torcello.
The Archaeological Section
The Archaeological Section of the Museum - located inside the Palazzo dell'Archivio - contains materials that run from the Paleolithic to the late Roman period and exhibits, among its oldest pieces, some examples of Cypriot and Mycenaean vases, which lead to the presumption that there was already trading activities between the lagoon area and the Upper Adriatic at the end of the second millennium BC.
Inside are mainly findings from the lagoon area and the countryside of Altinum, to which private collections, such as the collection of Egyptian bronze and ceramic statuettes, have been added. The section of the museum dedicated to Greek, Italiot and Etruscan pottery from the 7th to the 4th BC is well stocked, showing various decorative types and production techniques. As far as Roman ceramics are concerned, although not its main core of exhibits, are interesting kitchen utensils and altar ornaments for funerary use, glasses and cups and different types of oil lamps.
There are also prehistoric bronzes of human and animal figures of Etruscan, Italic, and Paleo-Venetian production, for religion - that is to say for worship - and funerary use, objects of personal and ornamental use such as fibulas and mirrors, small scared bronzes from the Roman period, objects from sacred places in central and southern Italy, small Greek sculptures that arrived in Torcello through Venetian collecting, as well as Roman copies and reworkings of Greek originals, funerary monuments and portraits from the Altinum area.