The building goes back to 1879 and originally housed a girls’ primary school, built to meet the needs of the population increase which accompanied the creation of the La Spezia military arsenal. In 1923, the school benches were substituted with the more austere ones of the civic and penal court. This use of the building continued throughout the war years, when it was quite seriously damaged during the 1943 bombings, and consequently re-built in 1950 in its original style. In 1994, the court was moved to its new premises in the Palace of Justice designed by Ignazio Gardella in another area of the town. This building remained unused until it was identified as a possible container for the continually growing civic collections of contemporary art.
The present museum structure is the result of a complex transformation and extension operation by the architect Chiara Bramanti, with a division into three exhibition floors and two large terraces, a spacious fan-shaped staircase and a glass-panelled lift.
The CAMeC as we know it today was born on 23 May 2004 with the mission of offering to the town the considerable body of art works from the various editions of the Gulf Award and the Cozzani and Battolini donations and housing it in adequate premises. The permanent collections are shown in rotation mode and at the same time exhibitions are organised to document the various contexts of contemporary or historical contemporary production. We mention here for example the large exhibitions dedicated to Jean Tinguely and Bruno Munari, Fausto Melotti, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Cittadellarte, Concetto Pozzati, Enrico Baj, Giulio Turcato; the shows dedicated to young Italian and international (Swiss, German, Chinese) artists; the examination of 20th-century currents and events in collaboration with other museums; the important monographic shows. Original exhibition projects have been developed for many artists including: Marco Gastini, Renato Ranaldi, Din Matamoro, Bizhan Bassiri, Jan Dibbets, Romano Rizzato, Diet Sayler, Enrico Paulucci, Paolo Icaro, Giovanni Campus, Edith Schloss, Luca Matti, Omar Galliani, Eliseo Mattiacci, Jonathan Guaitamacchi, Giovanni Frangi, Walter Valentini; the La Spezia artists Mauro Manfredi, Francesco Vaccarone, Giuliano Tomaino, Marco Casentini, Gianluca Lerici - Prof. Bad Trip, Angelo Prini, Elisa Corsini, Mirko Baricchi.
Besides hosting debates and study days and more generally recording the culture of today, the CAMeC possesses an educational department which proposes art education activities for both schools and the general public. It is the only town museum that has organised art-therapy projects and labs since its opening.
The following are some curators of exhibitions at the CAMeC: Eleonora Acerbi, Giosuè Allegrini, Diego Ballani, Pietro Bellasi, Jacopo Benassi, Tristan Boniver, Mara Borzone, Mario Botta, Roberto Budassi, Daniele Capra, Doriana Carlotti, Cassina, Francesca Cattoi, Maurizio Cavalli, Roberta Cerini Baj, Mario Commone, Cinzia Compalati, Lara Conte, Bruno Corà, Valerio P. Cremolini, Maddalena D’Alfonso, Valerio Dehò, Bettina Della Casa, Veronica Ferretti, Jenamarie Filaccio, Alberto Fiz, Matteo Fochessati, Peter Frank, Galleria Il gabbiano arte contemporanea (Fernando Andolcetti, Cosimo Cimino, Mario Commone), Cristiano Guerri, Walter Guadagnini, Miroslava Hájek, Leo Lecci, Matteo Lucchetti, Guido Magnaguagno, Saul Marcadent, Roberto Mastroianni, Marco Meneguzzo, Antonio Mondino, José Jimenez, Jiang Mei, Vanessa Milan, Roberto Mutti, Luca Nannipieri, Ordine degli Architetti della Spezia, Maria Perosino, Matteo Pollini, Progettotre Studio Associato, Folco Quilici, Marzia Ratti, Laura Riccio, Giovanna Riu, Emanuela Sesti, Francesca V.Sommovigo, Pia Spagiari, Angelika Stepken, Walter Vallini, Andrea Zanetti.