Africa of museums: the national Bardo museum in Tunisia

The Carthage Gallery of the Bardo National Museum, Tunis, Tunisia.

© National Bardo Museum

Text by: Siegfried Forster Follow

9 min

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, is considered one of the largest museums on the African continent and one of the most beautiful in the world.

Ten years after the Tunisian revolution of January 14, 2011, five years after the terrible attack of March 18, 2015 in Bardo and one year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, what are the museum's challenges today?

Interview with Fatma Naït Yghil, historian, archaeologist, specialist in Roman times, and director of the Bardo National Museum.


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: What is the unique side of the Bardo National Museum


Fatma Naït Yghil


 It is unique by its rich collection of mosaics.

In addition to the extreme beauty of the representations, it offers access, represented by the image, to what is attested in the written sources, the literary sources, the epigraphic sources.

Hence its importance for researchers, archaeologists and historians.

This iconography represents practically all the themes which marked beliefs, religions, pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, the daily life of Romano-Africans, like leisure activities, etc.   

All the archaeological objects on display were discovered on Tunisian soil, in the various archaeological sites: from north to south, dating from prehistoric times, from the Punic, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Islamic and modern periods ...  

To this is added the monument itself, a beylical palace, therefore royal, with extreme Mediterranean Arab-Muslim architectural beauty.

A beautiful mix of different civilizations which gives this museum an identity: the history and memory of Tunisians.   


ur museum offers a tour of 

101 masterpieces of the museum


What is the “

Mona Lisa

” of Bardo


The museum's “Mona Lisa” is the large mosaic currently on display in the hall, that of the 

Triumph of Neptune [one of the largest in all of Africa, note


“The Triumph of Neptune”, a play from the 2nd century AD.

J-Chr., The largest mosaic in Tunisia, welcomes visitors in the entrance hall of the Bardo National Museum.

© National Bardo Museum

In 2005, the Bardo Museum still welcomed 500,000

visitors, in 2011 around 200,000

, and in 2015, the year of the attack, only 40,000


How many admissions did you register in 2019 and 2020


The number of visitors had increased significantly in 2018. In 2019, we were almost at the level of 2014 which is a benchmark for us, because it precedes the year of the attack.

With the crisis, the public is almost only Tunisians.

Every now and then we have a few visitors from Western and Eastern Europe, Poles, Russians, Croats ... Before the crisis, we had a lot of visitors from Asia, Chinese , Japanese, South Koreans, in addition to Europeans.

With the pandemic, which has affected museums around the world, the situation has become catastrophic.

We no longer organize major cultural or archaeological events such as temporary exhibitions.

Otherwise, I took advantage of this time of crisis to organize an important department of the museum, that of exceptional treasures.

Something that could not have been done in normal times.   

Many museums are currently looking for new models.

In France, the 

Center Pompidou

has developed a video game, the 

Louvre Museum

hosted an online auction of original tours.

Tate Modern in the UK and the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation in 

South Africa





, a visit with a very limited number of visitors and works to watch.

What has changed at the Bardo Museum following the changes caused by the Covid-19


We rely heavily on digital tools such as social networks, the website and virtual tours.  

The Patio of the Petit Palais at the Bardo National Museum, in Tunis, Tunisia.

© National Bardo Museum


 your proposal for a virtual visit with 

Google Arts & Culture


There are different virtual tours, especially for the most important spaces, the centerpieces.

The goal is to stimulate the curiosity of visitors, to create suspense ... We can't put everything in virtual tours, because our goal is to bring the visitor to the field and see the objects up close.   

What is the purpose of your

Bardo Up Museum


Digital tools occupy an important place in the museum, and this since the initiatives launched on May 15, 2019, as part of the heritage month in Tunisia.

Since then, we have had our own augmented reality application on smartphones and tablets, but this only concerns about fifteen of the key pieces.

There is also another service that we have developed: 3D printing of about fifteen objects, four mosaics and eleven sculptures, for the blind and visually impaired, with texts in Braille, Arabic, French. and in English.  


the attack of March 18, 2015

, the Bardo Museum has become an emblematic place of resistance and resilience.

At the same time, Tunisia is often cited as the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Since the Jasmine Revolution, the revolution of dignity in 2011, what is the most important thing that has changed for the Bardo Museum


Our goal, for us as scientists and intellectuals, is to send a message of peace and tolerance.

Our work is based on scientific and cultural facts and remains far from all political currents.

Interior view of the National Bardo Museum, in Tunis, Tunisia, in March 2020 © Fethi BELAID / AFP

In December 2015, for the first time, the Bardo Museum invited contemporary Tunisian artists to its walls.

What is the museum's relationship with contemporary art today


We continued to invite contemporary art.

In 2018 and 2019, there were two contemporary art exhibitions.

One was carried out with a museum of contemporary Italian art and the other exhibition with Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian artists.

Today, the museum should be a place of culture and not just a place to exhibit archaeological objects.

In the past, the Bardo Museum has often collaborated with the Louvre Museum in France.

What are your partnership projects with museums or institutions on the African continent


We work mainly with France.

We have projects on Roman sculpture which are still in progress: one with the Louvre museum and the other with the University of Paris-IV-Sorbonne for the scientific and reasoned study of sculpture.

With the Louvre museum, this mainly concerns the restoration and training of Tunisian skills in this area.

And we have a project with the Mucem in Marseille and the Rouen museum concerning the




With Italy, we have organized several temporary exhibitions, at the Bardo Museum and in Italy, with the Uffizi Museum in Florence, the Archaeological Park of the Colosseum in Rome, the National Museum in Cagliari ... And we also have a project in collaboration with the National Museum of China. 

As far as Africa is concerned, we have had so far only talks with Senegal, concerning occasional exchanges of experiences for archaeological work, excavations, scientific programs, and temporary exhibitions with the Dakar museum.

But, so far, we haven't done anything official.

View of a famous mosaic on display at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, Tunisia.

© National Bardo Museum

In 2018, the French president launched a major 

debate on the restitution of African heritage


Are the Bardo National Museum or other museums in Tunisia concerned by the question


I have no official information on this subject.

This issue is complex and must be addressed formally through the foreign ministries of the two countries.   

What is your vision for the Bardo Museum in 2030


I hope that this pandemic will have been forgotten and that we, and all the museums of the world, will have found our audiences.

My greatest wish is first of all that the Bardo Museum obtain its financial autonomy and that it always keep its influence and its position among the best museums in the world.

May it keep its noble vocation of tolerance, of living together and of always being a high place in the memory of all humanity. 

 The official website of the Bardo National Museum, Tunisia


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