Museums of Decorative Art, born in the nineteenth century as a repository of objects with a didactic function and as places that would ensure craftsmen and artists would have access to models for their training, today are aimed at a wider audience, which is undifferentiated both in terms of geographical origin or cultural level. Because of the particular position occupied by Milan, the Museum of Decorative Art is a privileged centre for the interdisciplinary study of the decorative arts in Italy.

The Institute's mission, in accordance with the original purpose and its present characteristics, is to place the art object at the center of its exhibition system and its cultural programmes, in an interdisciplinary form (both as a single masterpiece and as element within a coherently organized context), a witness to the history of Italian and European taste.

The presence in one place of both the works of art and their iconographic sources in print (in the Achille Bertarelli Prints Collection and in the Gabinetto dei Disegni) makes it possible to document, in scientific studies and exhibitions, the culture of decorative projects in the West over the course of the centuries.