The Directorate-General of Museums has its headquarters in Rome, at the Monumental Complex of San Michele a Ripa.
The initial plan for San Michele was by Carlo Fontana; it took 148 years to build and involved numerous other Italian architects (Nicola Michetti, Ferdinando Fuga, Nicolò Forti and Luigi Poletti). Built as an apostolic institute during the papacy of Innocent XI Odescalchi, San Michele was immediately considered in Europe as an innovative model of public assistance for the needy and disinherited. Its original function as a shelter was soon flanked by education activity, with the opening of an art school and a professional workshop (weaving, silk production, tapestry production, printing). San Michele kept delinquency down, offered shelter in a Rome suffering in the wake of the economic crisis in the second half of the 16th century, and gave the city’s “dropouts” a chance to regain a place in society, thanks to highly specialised professional training.
The “factory of San Michele” was a self-sufficient organisation: its economic sustenance came from the sale of craftwork and fees collected on the rental of storerooms and workshops to third-parties for commercial and crafting businesses.
The Institute closed after the Unification of Italy and the building was gradually abandoned and left to decay.
It was purchased by the State in 1969, restored and refurbished, and turned into the headquarters of certain Managerial departments and Institutions of the Ministry for cultural heritage and tourism.
Today, the Directorate-General of Museums occupies some offices on the 1st floor (Directorate-General and Department I) and on the 3rd floor (Department II) of the “Conservatorio dei Ragazzi”, the original nucleus created by Fontana, with Mattia De’ Rossi, around the main courtyard.