After the independence (1956)

With the independence of Tunisia in 1956, Ali Pacha’s palace, which was the centre of political power since 1705, became the home of the National Constituent Assembly. Stripped of one of its oldest buildings, the Alaoui Museum’s name was changed. From that time on, the National Bardo Museum opened its doors to the public under the direction of Abdulaziz Driss (1956-1964), a young history and geography teacher.

Between 1958 and 1962, this curator reshaped the second floor of the museum and rearranged it into halls for the exhibition of ceramics collections in the Carthage Gallery. The walls of the corridor leading to Acholla’s Hall were covered with an important collection of mosaics with different themes. The most important of these are amphitheatre games bestiaries, Theseus’ combat against the Minotaur, and Dianne the huntress.

A pillared portico conceived by the architect Noureddine Rebai in 1964 detaches itself at the museum’s entrance.

M. Mohamed Yacoub (1964-1973), a researcher who had been newly named head of public museums, quickly noticed that entrances to the museum are not generating revenue. He immediately started working on diversifying the museum’s direct resources through the sale of derived products which were made in the moulding and mosaics workshops of the Small Palace.

In 1966, he wrote a guide to the National Bardo Museum which exhaustively presents all the collections of the museum.
A donation from the outstanding scholar Hassan Hosni Abdelwaheb allowed him to rearrange the Arab-Islamic department.
As of 1973, the National Bardo Museum became an institution under the aegis of the National Institute of Archaeology and Arts (ex INAA, today’s INP) within the framework of a revision of the statutes of patrimonial institutions.
The director, M. Mongi Ennaifer (1973-1986), a Roman-African mosaics specialist, was the one who initiated loan operations of the Bardo collections for out-of-country temporary exhibitions. Most important was the one organized in the Small Palace in Paris in 1977 under the theme “From Carthage to Kairouan”. M. Ennaifer simultaneously created an educational service at the museum in charge of receiving schoolchildren, the organization of animation workshops for young generations, and the coverage of foreign exhibitions organized by the museum in an adjoining space to the palace.
At that time, a premise arranged within the museum hosted the meetings about Tunisia’s mosaics corpus project. This programme, which was elaborated by Professor Margareth Alexander, took into consideration archaeological contexts. Thus, the mosaics coming from the Carthage, Thysdrus (El Jem), Thuburbo Majus, and Utique sites were studied and republished according to scientific standards. Many of these are conserved in the national Bardo Museum.
From 1986 to 1991, Mrs Aisha Ben Abed, a Roman-African mosaic specialist, directed the Bardo museum and took many initiatives aiming at reinforcing the museal institution. Mrs Ben Abed concluded an agreement with the regional museum of Bonn, Germany, to restore the bronze and marble collections coming from the underwater excavations in Mahdia according to scientific criteria; especially with the degradation of their conservation status because of their open-air exposition since 1913.