The Museum was founded in 1817 by Michele della Torre Valsassina, eclectic scholar and passionate about archeology, to welcome and make immediately accessible to citizens the artifacts unearthed in excavations conducted in Cividale and in the territory, with grants of ' Emperor Francis I of Austria.
During its two centuries of history, the Museum is also enriched with important works by goldsmith sacred and secular medieval and Renaissance periods, a historical library which includes about 8,000 printed volumes between the fifteenth and nineteenth century, and a rich fund codes that collects manuscripts ranging from the fifth to the seventeenth century, including the ancient Gospels of St. Mark, which documents the origin of the Chapter, and exemplary richly illuminated as psalters Egberto and Santa Elizabeth.
Today the museum is housed in the Palace of the Venetian, built in the late sixteenth century, designed by Andrea Palladio: the ground floor there is the lapidary section with finds dating from Roman times to the Renaissance, which allow the visitor to follow the evolution and history of the city from the municipium Forum Iulii , the Civitas Austriae of patriarchal splendor to the Venetian rule.
The visit continues on the main floor, where, after a section dedicated to exceptional decorative bronze complex from the hole Iulium Carnicum (Zuglio), finds space and reaching the civilization of the Lombards, with beautiful material evidence found in the rich Cividale necropolis and in other places of the Lombard duchy of Friuli, who make a point of reference of the Museum among those dedicated all'altomedioevo.
Of particular note among many treasures, the exhibition of San Mauro necropolis in the living room, where the ten tombs reconstructed on the basis of excavation data allow visitors to directly appreciate the funerary rituals Lombards; the exceptional privileged burial "Gisulfo", the only one among the "princely" burials of Lombard era that has survived intact in Italy, and the splendid collection of golden Lombard CRUP Foundation, second only to the British Museum.