Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology


Archaeological museums and museum displays help to broadcast ideological statements, particularly concerning the formation of national identities, yet the ways in which the messages being transmitted have been articulated within the actual spaces devoted to the display of artifacts are still far from being thoroughly studied. More specifically, little attention has been dedicated to some of the most immediate means through which a museum interprets the past for the modern-day visitor, such as its plan, the arrangement of its collections in the galleries, and its visiting paths.

The dissertation examines the physical features a group of archaeological museums in Italy, Greece, and Israel, three countries which became independent less than two centuries ago, and discusses how they shape the visitor's perception of the artifacts and encourage him or her to see them as elements of a meaningful narrative. The research embraces institutions of different scope and size (national, regional, local), and considers the history of each display, not just its present appearance. The following museums are analyzed: in Italy, the branch of the Roman National Museum installed in the Palazzo Altemps, the City Archaeological Museum in Bologna, and the Archaeological Environmental Museum in San Giovanni in Persiceto, near Bologna: in Greece, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the archaeological museums in Nafplio and Atalanti; in Israel, the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem and the Archaeological Museum Beit Miriam, Kibbutz Palmachim.

Reviewing the individual museums and establishing comparisons among them allows to address several important questions: the function of archaeology and its display in national states, especially when they have to incorporate an ancient and distinguished past in their process of self-definition; the sometimes tense cohabitation of artifacts entering museums as part of collections and objects discovered in excavations; the different ways of dealing with visitors, as expressed for example in rules and regulations concerning visits, and the behavior expected from them, sometimes not too different from the conduct associated with places of worship; the practical issues and challenges faced by museums, such as availability of space, distribution of weight, lighting, and climatic conditions.


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