The Tirano Museum of Ethnography was established in 1973 with the aim of documenting and studying the rural and mountain culture of the Valtellina. It was first located in a large hall on the ground floor of the San Michele Palace, (an old hostel for the pilgrims of the Sanctuary), and in 1990 it was moved to a new home in the Casa del Penitenziere specifically restored for this purpose by the Tirano Town Council. In the elegant eighteenth-century building which looks directly over the historical Piazza della Basilica, exhibits have been arranged as follows. The top floor contains tools and objects related to rural working activities (agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy-farming and means of transport) and domestic life (a bedroom, which has been arranged in an authentic stŘa (*) and a partially reconstructed kitchen). The hall contains a collection of objects related to commerce (weights and measures), hunting, fishing, slaughtering of pigs and lighting before the arrival of electricity. The floor below, together with the administration office, includes the loom-room and the room containing the magnificent ritual garments given to the Sanctuary of Madonna di Tirano in 1636 by Cardinal Richelieu, France's Prime Minister. The ground floor includes a small exhibition room and a room with tools and equipment used by cartwrights, coopers and wandering tinkers. A larger hall includes a carved wooden gate from Grosio (17th - 18th century), a safe, a collection of locks, keys and door knockers and an eighteenth-century transport coffin with some handmade graveyard objects in wrought-iron. In the basement an imposing wine-press, with its characteristic wooden screw, has been assembled alongside a walnut oil-press. Further important exhibits in the Museum collection include a Roman "trulla" (*, 1st century A.D.), a Late Bronze Age axe head (c. 12th century B.C.) and a splendid, inlaid dowry chest from 1711. The Museum also owns a photo and film library, a collection of some 2000 postcards showing different aspects of life in the Valtellina, and a collection of prints.
For its scientific and research activities the Museum collaborates with a committee of experts created specifically and with the IDEVV, the Institute of Dialectology and Ethnography of the Valtellina and the Valchiavenna, which it found in December 1999 and which also has its official seat here.
*stŘa (N.d.T.) wood-panelled room
*trulla (N.d.T.) bronze ladle