The Museo Storico Nazionale d’Artiglieria was founded in 1843 following a recommendation by the kingdom of Sardinia’ Artillery Commander, General Vincenzo Morelli di Popolo, which was approved by Carlo Alberto, the king of Sardinia, who assigned a number of rooms in the Royal Arsenal in Turin for ite location. It is therefore the first and oldest museum dealing with the history of italian military technology. From the very beginning, the Museum hosted a large collection of weapons and models for educational purposes, but with access only to military personnel and scholars.
By the eighteenth century, several collections in the arsenal had achieved a considerable size but, during the period of occupation by the french revolutionary troops (1798), many objects were “requisitioned” and sent to Paris. Following the restoration of the Monarchy in 1814, some of these were recovered while other artifacts were gradually added until they were finally brought together in the new “Artillery Museum”. In 1861, following the unification of Italy into a single state under King Victor Emanuel II, the Museum’s initial denomination was enriched to the status of “National” and its collections were augmented with weapons originating from pre-unitary states (in particular, with a number of rare cannons from the early 14th century to the beginning of the nineteenth century), weapons recovered from the battlefields of 1848-1849 and 1859-1861 and finally with purchases from abroad and donations by private citizens and various italian municipalities. Other memorabilia document the piedmontese and italian scientific and technological progress during thr nineteenth century.
In 1885, new demands on the use of the arsenal building forced the temporary closure of the Museum, awating the definition of new premises. These were identified in the keep of the citadel of Turin, and, in 1893, the municipality of Turin, after having specially adapted the keep to meet the Museum requisites, ceded it to the military administration who where charged with its organisation and the relocation of the collections, following which, the Museum was opened to the public. The collection continued to grow with material from the colonial campaigns and the evolution of technology during the wars of the twentieth century.
In 1961, as part of the celebrations for the centenary of the unification of Italy, the exposition space was further enlarged, gaining an other large area thanks to the excavation of the embankment behind the curviving north curtain wall, next to the keep. This area is commonly referred to as “Italy ‘61”.
The keep of the citadel has now been the subject of an important restoration and renovation work by the city of Turin and looks forward to soon being destined once again as the exposition area of the museum.
In the meantime, the considerable and valuable artifacts of the museum (some 12.000 items) are stored in the Carlo Amione barracks of corso Lecce 10, Turin.