Italy - Abruzzi

Abruzzi Museums Damage Assessment

Starting from April 14th, ICOM Directors in Abruzzo, especially Paola Di Felice, Director of Civic Museums of Teramo, in collaboration with Antonella Nonnis, Coordinator of Legambiente Cultural Asset Relief Teams, began assessment of the damages. The initial report was published on April 18th, updated on the 21st and 28th of April and was virtually completed on May 7th: of the 112 museums monitored, 22 were unfit for service (23%) and 30 were temporarily closed to the public (31%). Museum collections were damaged, especially in L’Aquila and its territory, as well as on the Teramo and Pescara slopes of the Gran Sasso.

Damaged Museums - General Information

Museums housed in historical buildings experienced the worst damages. Recently remodelled and consolidated historical buildings stood up better to the stress provoked by the seism, as did more recent buildings.

1. Personnel
Fortunately, no serious injuries or loss of life was recorded.
The friars residing at the convent annexed to the Museum of Natural and Human Sciences of San Giuliano (AQ) were evacuated.

2. Buildings
Most of the damages caused by the earthquake are of a non-structural type, with fissures and internal lesions in parts of the buildings, collapse or breakage of partition and sealing walls.
Serious structural damages with collapse or capillary lesions of bearing structures (façades, columns, vault crosses, corners and foundations) seriously compromised the internal and external parts of buildings in some cases, and were seen in the Provinces of:

● Teramo:

  • Museum of Collurania
  • Museum of Tossicia
  • Museum of Ceramics of Castelli

● Pescara:

  • Museum of Fine Arts of Castello Nocciano
  • Museum of Oil of Loreto Aprutino
  • Museum of Acerbo – Ancient Majolica of Castelli di Loreto Aprutino
  • Municipal Antiquarium – “Antonio Casamarte” of Loreto Aprutino
  • “F. Bellonzi” Dantean Gallery – Home of Dante in Abruzzo of Torre de’ Passeri
  • Museum of the Abbacy of St. Clement in Casauria

● L’Aquila:

  • Signorini Home Museum – Corsi de L’Aquila
  • “V. Rivera” Museum of Spelaeology of Stiffe
  • Experimental Museum of Contemporary Art of L’Aquila
  • Civic Museum of Cerchio
  • Diocesan Civic Museum Centre of Sulmona
  • Civic Museum of Sulmona
  • Museum of Natural and Human Sciences of S. Giuliano de L’Aquila
  • Archaeological Museum of Rovere
  • Cardinal Agnifilidi Museum of Rocca di Mezzo
  • Museum of Sacred Art of Castelvecchio Subequo
  • National Museum of Abruzzo

3. The Collections
The damages suffered by the movable property conserved in the museums were limited. The collections of the museums classified as unfit for service were promptly transferred to safe areas by the Directors of the Institutions.
In the territory of L’Aquila, recovery of works in seriously damaged museums has not yet been completed and various damages and losses have been reported.

4. Unfit Structures and Public Closures

  • Among the museums of the four provinces:
  • 22 were declared unfit for service (23%).
  • 30 were temporarily closed to the public, amounting to 31% of the total.
  • In many cases, buildings housing museum institutions were declared partially uninhabitable. Personnel have been evacuated from museums where offices are housed, which suffered structural damages or lesions. For reasons of safety, the buildings have been completely closed to the public.

5. Initial Relief Intervention Required

  •  Safety measures to secure buildings and interior environments.
  •  Restoration and strengthening of damaged parts.
  •  Monitoring of the structures.
  •  Removal of debris.
  • Solution of problems for the recovery and transfer of collections.
  • Availability of storage deposits for the custody and security of collections to be evacuated.

6. Strong Points and Weak Points that have Emerged:

  • The interviewee appreciated the interest shown by institutions, which are performing the work of collecting information and monitoring.
  • Problems related to the system of management and the frequent presence of responsible parties, free of charge, and volunteer work.
  • Many complaints have been recorded due to the absence of either ordinary or special maintenance on the buildings.
  • The parties responsible or museum institution directors, in many cases, fail to see valid prospects to safeguard and protect the collections recovered from the debris.
  • In the territory of L’Aquila, collapse of buildings is feared in the event of further seismic activity.
  • Tourist operators have recorded a strong drop following the earthquake and complain of incorrect information disseminated by the media, which have generalised the event with respect to the territory effectively stricken by the seism.


National Museum of the Abruzzi

The National Museum of the Abruzzi is housed in the Forte Spagnolo, a 15th-century castle, built by a Spanish Viceroy.1 The castle is one of the most damaged monuments: as far as the structure is concerned, the situation is critical, especially the 2nd floor, which is entirely in ruins2. But fortunately the East bastion of the castle, which housed the Museum, did not suffer from the last seismic phenomenon3. Created in 1950, the museum unified the collections of the civic and diocesan museums as well as a private collection of painting from 17th and 18th centuries and included a beautiful preserved fossilised skeleton of a prehistoric elephant found near the town in the 19504.
Soon after the seism, Anna Maria Reggiani, head of local branch of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali delivered a dire prognosis on the paintings and sculptures inside the castle5.

The Superintendence for architectural and landscape heritage, and historical, artistic and etnoanthropological heritage of Abruzzo had also its offices in the castle.

Collection items rescued:
On April 20th 2009, 70% of the museum’s collection was evacuated6.
The one million and two hundred year old Mammoth, symbol of L’Aquila, is in a good state. Only a few vertebras and one rib are damaged, but the general structure is conserved. For the moment, experts refuse to transport the skeleton because of its size and its fragility, although a restoration programme, already contemplated before the earthquake, will soon take place.

The National Museum of the Abruzzi before the earthquake

The National Museum of the Abruzzi after the earthquake. © D.Jalla


Museum of Jewellery

The Museum of Jewellery, situated in the old centre of L’Aquila was damaged too. The bishop’s see palace, where the museum was housed, is heavily damaged and threatens to fall7.

Collection items  rescued:
The pieces of art will be transferred to Rome thanks to the Carabinieri of the Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and will be kept and conserved by them for the moment


1 « Roman laths and Abruzzo churches damaged in earthquake », Daily Telegraph, April 6th 2009
2 “Beni culturali: una mappa degli interventi in corso” MIBAC
3 “Terremoto Abruzzo: Ultimi aggiornamenti”, MiBAC, April 22nd 2009
4 Blog Medieval New « Earthquake hits medieval Italian city of l’Aquila », April 7th 2009
5 S. Meuchtry « Italy Quake Rescue Extends to Artwork », Wall Street Journal, April 8th 2009
6 “Terremoto: ultimi aggiornamenti”, MiBAC, April 20th 2009
7 « Terremoto Abruzzo : ultimi aggiornamenti » MiBAC, April 14th 2009
8 “Beni culturali: una mappa degli interventi in corso” MIBAC