Founded on the 7th of May 1888, the Bardo National Museum is considered one of the most important archaeological institutions in the Maghreb. It is well known for its collection of Roman mosaic panels and the museum itself is the product of redevelopment and rehabilitation of a nineteenth century Ottoman palace. It consists of a ground floor and two upper floors in which the museum’s objects have been grouped according to a chronological classification. This arrangement seeks to trace the history of Tunisia and includes the following:
- A section showcasing Prehistoric Tunisia, devoted to lithic tools, ornaments, engraved stone and with particular reference to the cultic monuments from the small town of “Hermaïon El Guettar”.
- A section devoted to the Punic era with numerous pieces exhumed from several ancient sites within Tunisia. These include ceramics, steles and jewels.
- A section dedicated to the Roman era. In addition to ceramics and jewellery, this department is known for its important collection of mosaics.
- A section allocated to the Byzantine era. It contains sarcophagi, mosaics, terracotta pieces with images unique to African Christianity, and the Kelibia mosaic baptistery.
- A recently refurbished space that exhibits ancient bronzes and marbles recovered from a first century BCE Athenian shipwreck near the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia.
- A space reserved for the Islamic eras. This includes a section devoted to the Muslim Middle Ages containing objects excavated from the sites of Sabra and Raqqada: Fatimid glasses, figuratively decorated ceramics, Fatimid era ivory and bronze figurines, funerary steles, Kufic inscriptions, Qur’anic parchment slips and Egyptian Fatimid textiles. Another section is devoted Tunisian folk arts and traditions showcasing traditional weapons, musical instruments, copper objects, jewellery and regalia.
Within each section, the objects are grouped by type and subject. The mosaics are presented in the form of panels attached to the walls or are set within the floor of the palace. Other items are displayed in showcases. The museum’s statues are erected on supports or placed within wall niches. These objects, which constitute the museum’s permanent exhibition, are made accessible to the public through educational and cultural activities that regularly take place within the museum.