The Ducal Museum of Antiquity, today the National Archaeological Museum of Parma, was founded in 1760 by Don Filippo di Borbone in conjunction with the start of the exploration of the Roman town of Veleia , becoming the first – and for a long time the only – example in northern Italy of an institution linked to an archaeological undertaking. From the Veleia excavation came the fragments of the Tabula Alimentaria Traianea and of the Lex de Gallia Cisalpina, as well as bronze figurines, furnishings and coins.The twelve marble statues of members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty were, however, placed at the Gallery recently established at the Academy (they will be given to the Museum only in 1866).
With the acquisition, at the end of the eighteenth century, of pieces coming from the exploration of the ancient Luceria site, at Ciano d’Enza, the Museum became a reference point for the archeology of the territory of the Duchy. In the meantime it was enriched with ancient sculptures coming from Rome, belonging to the Gonzagas of Guastalla and the Farnese collection, and with a rich medal collection.
The “good duchess” Marie Louise then enriched the museum with the purchase of important and substantial numismatic collections, of Greek, Magna Graecia and Etruscan ceramics and Egyptian objects. She assigned the current space in the Palace, transferring it from the small building annexed to the Pilotta where it was originally located. Under her rule (1815-1847), the intense building activity carried out in the city was also an occasion for the rediscovery of the Roman theater, the amphitheater and large passages of the ancient urban fabric: many of the pieces found came into the Museum’s collections.
In the aftermath of the National Unification of Italy, thanks to the work of Luigi Pigorini and Pellegrino Strobel, one of the most remarkable prehistoric collections in northern Italy was established here. It was then further increased by the research of Maria Bernabò Brea on the Bronze Age.