The Archaeological Museum is in the Case Nuove area, which was built at the express wish of the Archbishop of Matera, Antonio del Ryos Culminarez between 1668 and 1702. In addition to the other buildings and to the Church of Santa Chiara, the area was under obligation to include a hospital for the infirm, which subsequently became the headquarters of the Regia Udienza in 1696, since the funds earmarked for the upkeep of the church proved to be insufficient for its management. A convent dedicated to S. Clare was set up in the building in 1707, at the request of the Capuchin nuns, following which the church’s collection of precious liturgical objects was greatly enriched and the stuccoes adorning its interior were gilded. Works designed to enlarge the former hospital building were also begun. Despite the suppression of religious orders, the convent continued to be used as a retreat centre by the nuns until the early C20th.
It became the headquarters of the Museum in 1911 and named after the famous doctor and archaeologist Senator Domenico Ridola, who donated his precious collections of findings to the State. The Museum’s collections are largely Palaeolithic, Neolithic (Ridola himself discovered the remains of entire “trenched” villages belonging to these periods, and to the Iron and Bronze Ages. Traditional sumptuous grave clothes and articles from the sanctuaries and ancient inhabited settlements perched on the rocky heights above Matera are also exhibited, and there are also some pieces from ancient Magna Graecia.