The Museo Civico originates from 1871, a decade after the Unity of Italy. It has precious and varied collections, really in tune with the typical XIX century educational aim. One can still see the original showcases of the early XX century: not only the works of art, but the Museum itself is an interesting tourist attraction.
In the 1960s the Museum was divided into the “Museo Civico d’Arte Medievale e Moderna” and the “Museo Civico Archeologico Etnologico”, but the can be connected into a single visit.
In the first, long room, are works of religious art by Antonio Consetti, Carlo Rizzi, Sigismondo Caula, Ercole Setti and Gian Gherardo della Catene. Don’t miss the Madonna di piazza, a wonderful terracotta statue by the Modenese Antonio Begarelli (1499-1565). The next little room houses a collection of ancient musical instruments: a portative organ, flutes, brasses, harps, a cymbal, stringed instruments.
In the third room, varied works: terrecottas, charts, leather objects, old measures; in the following, scientific and astonomic instruments; in the fifth room, wonderful majolicas and precious glasses; in the sixth a man sized horse and a gig, a painting representing Piazza Grande in the Middle Ages, swords, rifles, guns and many horse bits.
The next room is the so called Sala Gandini: under the richly painted ceiling, wonderful cloth and lacework, dating back even to the XI century, and sculputre work by local artists. From here you can experience the tactile space dedicated to those who are visually handicapped.
Then, there is the room which tells the story of the Museum from its foundation: portraits, books, marble, locks, printings etc. Through the Archaeological Museum, you arrive at the Galleria Matteo Campori, named after the benefactor who in 1929 donated his collections to the city. The artists are Ludovico Lana, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Marco Ricci, Antonio Joli, Felice Borselli, Giacomo Ceruti. In the last room, the Sernicoli collection: a fine Guercino (Vergine Assunta), paintings by Marcantonio Franceschini, Michele Desubleo, Ignazio Stern, Francesco Bianchi Ferrari and the Scarsellino, pictures of the XX century and a small collection of Estense silver.
Turning back, there is the Archaeological Museum. The first room is dedicated to Asia, South America and Africa: a globe, lances, shields, musical instruments, vases, a samurai’s armour, a mummified head. The next one houses the pre-Colombian Peru collection (with a terrifying mummy of an Inca woman of the XV-XVI century); then New Guinea, with jewels, decorations, tools, canoes.
The visit ends in the biggest of the rooms, characterized by vaults, pillars and wooden showcases. First of all, stop to admire a model in wood of Modena Cathedral and a copy of the portal of Nonantola abbey.
In the show cases, starting from the right, are finds dating back to the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, to the Ages of Copper, Bronze, Iron, of the Terramare (a typical ancient civilization of the area near Modena), Etruscan, Celtic and Roman (the lastra dei Niobidi, amphoras, a bed and oil-lamps).
Also the collections of the Museo Lapidario Romano and of the Gipsoteca Graziosi belongs to the Museums - but see Palazzo dei Musei (Museums)°.
[Images by the Author with the kind permission of the Museums]