It was founded in 1968 by Arturo Carlo Ottaviano Qintavalle, the Professor of History of art at Parma from 1980 to 2009.
The study centre and archive was originally housed in the Pilotta Palace, located in Parma city centre. Right from its beginning the activity of CSCA was oriented to the collection of works of art, photographs, drawings by architects and industrial, fashion, graphic designers. It organized also several exhibitions and started to publish its own catalogues.
The centre was officially recognised by the Presidential Decree No.1025/1986 which was published in the Italian Official Gazette of 7 March 1987. In 1989 Arturo Carlo Quintavalle was succeeded by Gloria Bianchino, whose directorship lasted till April 2014.
In 1986 the exponentially growing collections moved to the Nervi Pavilion in Via Palermo.