The curator’s word

The museographic collections of the National Bardo Museum, which are continuously enriched through acquisitions and donations, are placed in the ceremonial hall El Qasr EL Badii since the end of the XIXth Century. This harem palace, which was built by Mhammed Bey between 1859 and 1864, is a master piece of the Husseini architecture where Andalousian-Moorish traditions and Italian contributions coexist. These can be recognized in the halls plans, the decoration of noble spaces in stucco, the Quallaline panels, and the wood painted with animated and vegetarian decorations. In 1913, the Tunisian “Small Palace”, which dates back to 1833 and which is remarkable by its Andalousian-Moorish styled patio and its T-shaped ceremonial hall, was rehabilitated and integrated into the museum to receive ethnographic collections. The reconversion of this palatial complex into a museum of national antiquities, which was announced by the decree of 25 March 1885, is the result of the “patrimonialization” policy of the cultural assets which was initiated since 1876 by the Tunisian Prime Minister Kheireddine Pacha. He brought the collectors’ activities to an end by regulating the collection of archaeological objects and ordering the seizure of Mhammed Khaznadar’s private collection which was acquired fraudulently.
Since its inauguration in 1888, the National Bardo Museum, former Alaoui Museum during the French Protectorate, is a must visit place for the wider public of Tunisian cultural sites thanks to the richness and diversity of its collections.
The works of renovation and expansion started in the spring of 2009 have already lifted the Bardo Museum to the rank of a museum with an international stature thanks to the new, rich and diversified permanent exhibitions. This renovation is based on the modern architecture of the new spaces which are perfectly integrated into the historical palace-museum and an ambitious museographic program. The visit circuits, which are appropriately indicated with signposting, abide by chronological and thematic criteria and govern a modern scenography adapted to the wider public tastes. The lighting, whether natural or artificial, is in accordance with international standards in order to serve as an asset in reading objects during the day as well as at night.
The new presentation is intended to be a testimony of the Tunisian cultural identity through the six new departments dedicated to Prehistory, the Phoenician-Punic civilization, the Numidian world, the underwater Mahdia collection, Late Antiquity, and the Islamic civilization since fifteen Centuries.

The so-called Carthage Gallery on second floor is dedicated to glass making, ceramics, and bronze crafts works dating back to the Roman epoch. The chorus of the harem (former Virgil’s Hall) is the place where monetary treasures and exceptional works like the Campanian armour (also called Hannibal’s armour) are exposed. The historical museum, the old palace of Mhammed Bey’s harem, will conserve almost the totality of its famous mosaics and Roman epoch sculptures collections gathered in the Carthage Hall. Once rehabilitated, the “Small Palace” will serve as a stopover where visitors will admire its traditional architectural cachet and its décor which has been elaborated by local master craftsmen. Virgil’s mosaic and the Bulla Regia sculptures collection are housed in new spaces for a better visibility. Translation spaces inserted into the circuit are places for the didactic presentation of the national heritage and highlighting of its historical journey.

Being a place of the wide field of science and knowledge and civilizations that are rehabilitated and presented to the public, the Bardo Museum and its collections demonstrate the contribution of Tunisia and its people to the world history.

Taher Ghalia
Chief curator of the National Bardo Museum