Initially formed with a nucleus of material ceded from the city's Museo Civico in the 19th century, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Magna Grecia then grew via many discoveries in various excavation campaigns in the ancient city-states of Calabria, Basilicata and Sicily by the Soprintendenza Archeologica della Calabria right up to the present day, including the Riace bronzes. They are extremely important for studies of the 8th century BC, but also has several objects from the prehistoric and protohistoric periods which preceded it and the ancient Roman and Byzantine eras which followed. Today new finds in Calabria are no longer displayed and conserved in a single museum, but exhibited where they have been found, since the quantity of new discoveries has allowed smaller local museums to be set up for them (at Crotone, Locri, Roccelletta di Borgia, Sibari, Vibo Valentia and Lamezia Terme). These are taken together as the museo reggino.
The Museo Nazionale:
The most notable of its collections include:
The two large, well-preserved 5th century BC Riace bronzes, found in the province of Reggio, are thought to be the most significant bronze sculptures from the Greek period and among the few survivors of works by its master sculptors. Recent studies suggest they may represent Tydeus and Amphiaraus from a larger group of the Seven against Thebes.
The Head of a Philosopher from Porticello is a rare example of Greek portraiture.
The marble Reggio Kouros is a recent acquisition by the museum (shown at the 2006 Winter Olympics at Turin as the archetype of a victorious Greek athlete).
A marble head of Apollo, from Ciro.
The group of the Dioscuri falling from their horse in the battle of Sagra, from Locri Epizefiri
The bronze tables, from the archive of the temple of Zeus at Locri Epizefiri.
The vast collection of pinakes, terracotta ex votos with the rape of Persephone from Locri Epizefiri.
A rich collection of jewellery, bronze mirrors, coins and medals.
The city art gallery or Pinacotaca comunale is currently housed in the Museum until a dedicated structure for it is completed, and includes the two St. Jerome and Abraham panels by Antonello da Messina.