Murano has been famous for its glass ware at least since the 10th century AD. In 1291, fearful that glass furnaces would cause catastrophic fires amongst Venice’s wooden buildings, the city authorities ordered the glassmakers to re-locate their workshops on the island of Murano in the lagoon, which has been the principal centre for the manufacture of Venetian glassware ever since. In 1600 the island had about 7,000 inhabitants of whom about 3,000 were involved in glassmaking. Many new techniques for the manufacture of decorative glass were developed on Murano, including the making of enamelled, crystalline, aventurine (with gold threads) and multi-coloured glass, and the production of imitation gemstones.
The museum is located in the Palazzo Giustinian, the ancient palace of the bishops of Torcello, which stands near a stop on the water bus service from Venice. It was established in 1861 and has a large collection of the many different kinds of glassware made on Murano, as well as displays showing the traditional tools used by glassmakers.
Many factories, workshops and studios on Murano still make glass, the oldest of them the factory of Antica Vetreria Fratelli Toso, which dates from 1854, although the company has earlier origins. Many glassmakers demonstrate their work to visitors.