The building that houses the museum was completed in the first years of the 17th century, making use of a structure erected some years earlier. It was inaugurated in 1615 as the “Palace of Royal Studies”, the seat of the university of Naples. When the university moved elsewhere in 1777, King Ferdinand IV commissioned the architect Ferdinando Fuga to restore and adapt the building to accommodate the Bourbon Museum and Royal Library. It continued to undergo modifications, most notably the addition of a second storey on both flanks of the central edifice. At the turn of the century the sumptuous Farnese collections of pictures, books and antiquities were moved in from the Capodimonte museum and the various royal residences, to be followed by the finds from Pompei, Herculaneum and Stabiae. Thus by 1816 the “Royal Bourbon Museum” could boast the combined riches of the Farnese collection and the Vesuvian antiquities. During the 19th century the museum continued to receive new material, both from private collections and from excavations, most of it from Campania or elsewhere in southern Italy. On the unification of Italy in 1860 it passed into state ownership and was renamed the “National Museum”. At this point the building contained only the rich collections of antiquities, and became the Archeological Museum as we know it today. For some years the fabric has been undergoing extensive restoration work, now nearing completion, and once more a comprehensive reorganisation of the collections is in hand, with the dual purpose of documenting the role of private collectors in assembling archeological patrimony and illustrating the various finds in their specific contexts.

 

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