The official foundation of Genoa Museo Civico di Storia Naturale [Natural History Museum] is listed as 24 April 1867, the date the city council approved Marquis Giacomo Doria’s proposal to create it. Doria, who lived from 1840 to 1913, nurtured a deep passion for nature and had already undertaken extensive research in Liguria before founding the museum, as well as conducting expeditions to Persia (1862-1863) and Sarawak, on Borneo (1865-1866), accompanied in the latter case by the Florentine botanist Odoardo Beccari. Taking advantage of the fact that in the same period the city had inherited two natural history collections (one of rocks, minerals and fossils from Marquis Lorenzo Pareto in 1865 and another of shells from Prince Oddone of Savoy in 1866), Doria offered to donate his own zoological collections to the city on the condition that a Natural History Museum be founded.

The new museum was set up in Villetta Di Negro, a small building which had recently come into the possession of the city having been owned by Marquis Gian Carlo Di Negro up until 1857. Doria was made the director of the museum, while the entomologist Raffaello Gestro (1845-1936) became the vice-director. Gestro would later succeed Doria as director.

The museum soon became the driving force behind a large number of expeditions, thanks partly to the fact that Doria was also the president of the Italian Geographic Society for many years and promoted several research trips outside of Europe as part of that role.

These expeditions saw huge amounts of specimens arrive at the museum, especially zoological material discovered during visits to Africa by Orazio Antinori, Odoardo Beccari, Arturo Issel, Eugenio Ruspoli, Vincenzo Ragazzi, Vittorio Bòttego, Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti, Enrico Bayon, Leonardo Fea, Carlo Citerni, Saverio Patrizi, Raimondo Franchetti and Edoardo Zavattari, to cite just the most well-known names. Meanwhile, the likes of Odoardo Beccari, Luigi Maria D’Albertis, Antonie Augustus Bruijn, Leonardo Fea, Elio Modigliani and Lamberto Loria operated in South-East Asia and New Guinea, sometimes for entire years at a time. Giacomo Bove, Decio Vinciguerra, Luigi Balzan, Carlo Spegazzini, Filippo Silvestri, Gaetano Rovereto and others sent collections from South America, while there were many collections sent from expeditions to Mediterranean regions made possible by the Violante and the Corsaro, two vessels provided by Captain Enrico Alberto D’Albertis.

By the end of the century, Villetta Di Negro was no longer able to accommodate any further collections. As a result, the council decided to construct a new building to be used exclusively for the museum. This is the museum’s current home. The building was inaugurated in 1912, though Doria was sadly unable to attend the ceremony due to serious health problems and indeed died the following year. Gestro succeeded Doria as director of the museum, a role he held until 1934 (meaning he worked at the museum for 67 years), when he was replaced by Oscar De Beaux, who served as director from 1934 to 1947. After De Beaux, the museum was directed by Carlo Alzona (1947-1955), Enrico Tortonese (1955-1976), Lilia Capocaccia (1976-1996), Roberto Poggi (1996-2011) and Giuliano Doria (2011-present).

  • Giacomo Doria, founder
  • The founders
  • Villetta Di Negro first set up of Museum
  • A new building on 1909