The establishment of the first nucleus of the museum of Sousse goes back to the end of the 19th century, more precisely to the year 1897. This date reflects the awareness of the colonial authorities, shortly after the establishment of the French mandate of Tunisia in 1881, of the importance of the archaeological heritage of the city and its cultural value. The choice to locate the museum in a building overlooking "Pichon" square in the heart of the city, near the commercial port and not far from other important public buildings, such as the post office or the railway station, was not insignificant ...
However, over time and due to the frequency of archaeological excavations and the diversity of artefacts found in the city of Sousse and its surroundings, dating mainly from the Punic and Roman periods, such as mosaics, stone steles, marble sculptures, and ceramic objects, and given the limited capacity of the first premises allocated to the museum exhibition, two other premises were refurbished so as to meet the minimum requirements of a museum exhibition: the first one was the hall of honor of the fourth division of infantry of the French army, located on the upper floor of the Kasbah of old quarters of Sousse (the Medina), and the second one consisted in one of the rooms in the town hall building, located opposite the commercial port.
During the Second World War and precisely the years 1942 and 1943, the city of Sousse was the scene of military confrontations between the Allied forces and the Axis troops, and was subjected to intensive and violent air strikes targeting vital installations, such as the port and its immediate surroundings. These bombardments resulted in the almost total destruction of the three premises of the city museum and a significant number of artifacts which were on display therein at the time.
Later, on the initiative of a group of French archaeologists, such as "Picard" and "Trio" and others, what remained of the salvaged artifacts was grouped together with the findings of the successive excavations conducted in the archaeological sites of the Tunisian Sahel region, and put on display in the southern part of the city of Sousse Kasbah, where, thanks to a group of French archaeologists, including Louis Foucher, a new museum space was set up and opened to visitors in 1951. Foucher is also credited with the expansion of archaeological research in conjunction with the discovery of important archaeological sites in the Sahel region, which paved the way for a large-scale scientific publishing endeavor and also reinforced the museum's position as a venue for exhibiting the discovered artifacts. The museum was also to become a training center for the benefit of a promising new generation archaeologists and researchers, as well as specialists in the fields of restoration and mosaics in post- independence Tunisia.
Today, the Archaeological Museum of Sousse continues its activities as a cultural beacon and tourist destination, thanks to the value of its collections and its location within the ramparts of the Kasbah, this historic landmark (built in the mid-9th century AD, at the dawn of the Islamic era in Tunisia), with its tower overlooking the medieval city, itself classified on the World Heritage List since December 1988.
In order to preserve this unique heritage and to enhance it while taking into account the evolution of contemporary museographic techniques, a redevelopment project was launched in 2007, under the supervision of the National Heritage Institute and the various intervening and associated structures. This project, completed in 2012, included the extension of the museum space to the detriment of the former civil prison, the refirbishment of the Kasbah and its ramparts and the construction of modern underground exhibition halls covering an area of 2000 square meters, as well as the restoration and maintenance of a significant number of mosaics and other artifacts. Rethinking stores, inventories and documentation were also among the tasks set for this project.
The Archaeological Museum of Sousse, in its current form, hosts the second largest collection of mosaics in Tunisia, after that of the Bardo Museum. Most of these mosaics were made in the workshops of the ancient coastal province of Byzacene in proconsular Africa (from the Roman period under the Severons, until the Byzantine period) and were recovered from the ancient Roman city of Hadrumetum and the nearby coastal sites such as El-Jem, Enfidha, Moknine, Temetra and Uzita. These mosaics represent mythological scenes, mythical characters and themes related to daily life such as practices, beliefs and activities. In addition to mosaics, the museum boasts a set of marble sculptures discovered in the ancient city of Hadrumetum and its surroundings which form the ancient province of Byzacena (Byzaciu). They are quite representative of the Roman imperial period.
The Sousse Museum also shows the unique and distinguished Punic heritage of the city and its interactions with its immediate surroundings and even the ancient Mediterranean environment. This includes the various collections of pottery, in addition to tomb goods consisting of stone stele, urns and ex-votos, which were found in a number of tombs scattered around the city, dating from the Phoenician and Punic periods.
At the end of the visit, the museum of Sousse gratifies its visitors with a stroll in the garden of the Kasbah and a panoramic view overlooking the medieval city (Medina) and the city port.