Index Museo Civico


 A Description


The recent re-opening of Tolfa’s Civic Museum to the public marks a milestone along the path followed by generations of scholars and volunteers who have dedicated themselves to knowing, preserving, and promoting the cultural heritage of Tolfa’s territory. The desire to provide the town’s citizens with a museum has its roots in a long tradition: as early as 1955, the Circolo di Cultura  (Cultural Association) of Tolfa promoted the creation of a Civic Museum, which in fact, first came into being in 1959. This local interest was driven both by an increased level of surveillance over the area and by intensified activities in the search for, and recovery of, archaeological remains.  In particular in the years from 1975 to 1979, cooperation between the Soprintendenza Archeologica per l’Etruria Meridionale (Superintendency of Archaeology for Southern Etruria) and the Gruppi Archeologici d’Italia, (Archaeological Groups of Italy) resulted in a period of fruitful archaeological digs that led to the recovery of a large amount of material, snatched from the activities of clandestine diggers, and to better knowledge of the historical evolution of the Tolfa area. In the following years, the collection was gradually organized and set up, thanks to the commitment of the municipality and the Lazio Region, in a new exhibition and educational area that was completed at the end of the ‘90s.

Today, the collection of finds is well displayed, finally, in a larger area in the ex-monastery of the Augustinian Friars at the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Sughera. This setting has also had the benefit of bringing about the restoration and use of a historic building, abandoned for a long time, which has noteworthy importance in the history of the town: in fact, the construction of the church and its adjacent monastery was begun in the early 1500s, at the behest of Agostino Chigi, following that apparition of the Madonna near a cork oak at the site. In addition, the complex was the scene of the execution by the French of a number of Tolfa’s citizens during the resistance against these invaders at the end of the 18th century.

After the restoration work, the cloister has again taken on an atmosphere of welcoming tranquility.  Opening off it are several reception and service areas, one for temporary exhibits, and large conference hall for hosting activities of a cultural nature. The museum exhibit is on the second floor and for the moment, the principal wing, which houses mainly finds from the Etruscan period, can be visited. Particular attention is given to illustrating cultural and funerial practices, the central theme of the whole exhibit. Artefacts found in the principal necropolises of the area are displayed, with much spaced devoted to items from Plan della Conserva and Castellina del Ferrone. These are among the most representative sites of the area, and they have certainly been the most carefully researched. Particularly impressive is a funeral chamber, reconstructed to scale, inside of which are the finds of a tomb found in 1995 in the necropolis of Ferrone. The items have been arranged as they were at the moment of their discovery.
In the coming months the exhibit will be expanded with the creation of other sections. These will show the changes, over different phases of history, in the relationship between the constructions typical of the period and what was happening the area, also bringing to light the aspects related to religious practices. Thus, the relationship between villas, sanctuaries and funerial practices in the Roman period, or between castles and monastries in the Middle Ages, will be analysed. Finally, for more recent times, the impact of economic activity linked to the mining of alum will be examined. The ‘illusion of wealth’ that prompted the building of imposing sanctuaries and monasteries, like that of the Sughera, and of elegant small palaces, will be shown in an educational section of the museum with the help of numerous models.
A thematic museum, and at the same time a museum of the town and territory – a museum that, through the interpretation of remains scattered throughout the territory of the Monti della Tolfa, provides an understanding of its social, religious, and economic evolution.
On the top floor are the areas for restoration work and for practical activities that introduce visitors to the art and handicraft techniques of the Etruscans. In fact, the museum is involved in teaching children about the ancient world in a different way, with direct experiences that are not in the usual school curricula. The rooms in the building provide an ideal framework for projects of this type, a method of studying history while working with ceramics and archaeological finds.
It is also possible to organize the space to accommodate temporary exhibits or cultural courses and initiatives in general.  The overall aim is that the museum, as well being a repository for exhibits, should also be a workshop for active and dynamic cultural activities in the life of the community. And one hopes, also the stimulus for new research initiatives in the area.