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The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto
Photo: Fabien Bièvre-Perrin

The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto

The National Archaeological Museum of Taranto (MArTA) is the hub for some of Italy’s most important archaeological collections. It also features one of the largest collections of artifacts from the Magna Graecia period (8th to 5th centuries BCE) so important to shaping the Italy we see today.

Founded in 1887, the museum occupies the site of the former convent of San Pasquale di Baylon, near the Gardens of Piazza Garibaldi . Archaeologist Luigi Viola initially had the intention of setting up a Museum of Magna Graecia but organically, the museum became an archaeological documentation of Taranto and Puglia.

Before the 20th century, Italy and Europe essentially employed a ‘finders keepers’ approach to antiquities. Pieces that would have been of interest to leading museums were haphazardly distributed across the museum network, with no log or paperwork for their journey.

Prime archaeological artifacts excavated in Puglia were acquired by museums in Naples or Lecce, and did not remain in the Taranto region. However, the creation of MArTA saw a dramatic change in how Italians handled antiquities.

Luigi Viola and other fellow archaeologists worked closely with Taranto government officials to build up a collection of Puglian artifacts. They cleverly devised an incentive to award prize money to the discoverer of any artifact, and the owner of the land upon which the item(s) were found.

They developed paper trails for antiquities and started to gradually build up records. After a while, the government began developing historical-topographical readings of the area in an attempt to add to the growing collection.

Curator Quintino Quagliati added the finishing touches by organising the first collection in chronological order. Thus, MArTA opened to the public.

Over the years, the museum has seen several expansions and renovations. In 1903, the facade was reconstructed. In 1941, architect Carlo Ceschi completed a new wing on the north side of the museum. Larger expansions then occurred throughout the 1950s. The museum experienced full closure from 2000 to 2007, completely restructuring the layout and reevaluating the artifacts on display.

The mezzanine floor of the museum is normally used for temporary exhibitions and conferences. From the mezzanine, the visitors' route then follows the museum’s collection in chronological order, starting from the 5th millennium B.C. The first floor houses the Greco-Roman section so vital to Taranto history.

The second floor, unveiled in 2016, houses the prehistoric section of the Paleolithic and the Bronze Age inherent to the entire Puglian region.

The museum contains more than 300 items from all ages. Artifacts cover the entire history of Puglia from from the prehistoric period to the Middle Ages, during the colonisation of Iapygians (Indo-European speaking people), Spartans, Greeks and Romans.

Artifacts stolen from archeological sites in the Apulian territory have since been returned to the region and are proudly on display in MArTA.

The Museum is opened every day unless otherwise communicated. There may also be seasonal opening hours.

The museum is owned by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.
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