The Archaeological Museum is currently housed in the building of the once-famous School of Commerce, where the Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis was a pupil.
The lack of schools under Turkish domination led in 1627 to the setting up of the school which, with the passage of time, developed into the School of Commerce for boys, and to the establishment of the Ursuline School for girls.
The School of Commerce was run at some periods by the Jesuits and at others by the Lazarists and the Salesians. The School was considered at its most distinguished during its last phase in 1891-1927, under the Salesians; it had by then completed 300 years of operation. Unfortunately, its rich library, its fine furnishings and its valuable archives were destroyed under the German-Italian occupation.
It is, then, in this building that the Archaeological Museum is today housed. The island’s Historical Archive is also housed in a room of the School.
As we go into the Archaeological Museum, what we are entering first and foremost is a complex, cool, sometimes even chilly, impregnable mediaeval building. The corridors, the staircases, the small rooms and the vast halls, the ladders, the windows, each framing a different vignette, and the terrace with its ramparts, form a monument which it is certainly worth getting to know In addition, the museum now houses the finds from the archaeological excavations carried out from the beginning of the 20th century until today, both from the Hora and from other parts of the island.
These finds testify to the presence of civilization on Naxos from the 3rd millennium BC (Early Cycladic period) to the period of late antiquity, that is, Roman times. Examples of Naxiot art can be seen here, but we must bear in mind that its finest creations are now elsewhere. The museum has some fine geometrical and classical vessels, blown glassware of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, small objects and ‘compacts’ of ivory and, on the terrace, the 4th-century mosaic pavement of a house from Aplomata. In the centre of the mosaic a Nereid riding a bull emerging from the sea, whilst there are deer and peacocks in the corners. The Naxos Museum is chiefly famous, however, for two particularly important collections: the Cycladic and the Mycenean.