The National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Art is the oldest museum in Algeria and Africa. The collection was set up in 1835, five years after the French occupation, by the then Governor General Marshal Clauzel who appointed Adrien Berbrugger as its first curator. From 1838 onward, the early museum hosted pieces, of Algerian provenance, from Antiquity up until the Ottoman periods. Between 1838 and 1896, this early museum occupied different places of the lower Casbah, before settling in a beautiful park located on the heights of Mustapha Pasha - now known as the Park of Liberty - where it was officially inaugurated in 1897.
Since then these two divisions of the museum’s collection, Antiquity and Islamic, have continued to grow. This collection makes it possible to exhibit the history of Algeria from its Libyan-Punic era through to the 20th century. The objects are displayed in two separate buildings: one houses the pre-Islamic collection whilst the other houses the collection of Islamic art, which was inaugurated in May 2003.
The ancient collection is very rich and includes collections of mosaics, sculptures, Libyan and Latin inscriptions, coins and medals, bronze, ivory, bone, ceramics and wooden objects.
The Islamic section was formed from the first collection of 1854, which included Algerian and Oriental objects. It has gradually been enriched by pieces uncovered through archaeological excavations carried throughout the country. This wide-ranging collection includes sculpted plasterboard from 10th century Sedrata, marble or plaster sculptures of the 11th century Qal'a of Beni Hammad as well as the chairs of the 11th century Almoravid mosques in Algiers and the 12th century mosque of Nedroma.
The furniture arts of North Africa is also widely represented in this museum. Shop windows contain Ottoman-era embroidery, clothing, ceramics, weapons, jewellery, chiselled brass and worked repoussé that comes from the urban centres as well as rural areas. Manuscripts and miniatures complete the collection.
The museum’s numismatic collection is exhibited in a reading room that was inaugurated in May 2006.