The Museum of the History of Catalonia (MHC) is a museum located in the Palau de Mar in Barcelona, created with the mission of telling its visitors the history of Catalonia, by means of a collection of objects and documents that are They relate, in historical recreations and settings, and in audiovisual and computer equipment, which playfully approach the history of this nation, aiming to stimulate, as well as inform, the interest in the evolution of Catalan culture. It was created in 1996 by the Government of the Generalitat. It is also responsible for managing monuments owned by the Government of Catalonia, with the aim of improving their conditions of maintenance, visit and cultural dissemination. The museum depends on the Ministry of Culture of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which manages it through its Catalan Agency for Cultural Heritage.
The History Museum of Catalonia is a space open to everyone so that people can meet, debate and reflect. It is also a tool helping provide information, education and entertainment, while at the same time raising awareness. The permanent exhibition offers an interactive story of the history of Catalonia from earliest times to the present day, complemented with educational and leisure activities, workshops and temporary exhibitions.
The History Museum of Catalonia has become established as a leader in preserving, researching and popularising the country’s history and cultural heritage. The founding decree of 1996 establishes that the institution’s mission is precisely to “preserve, explain and popularise the history of Catalonia as collective heritage and strengthen citizens’ identification with the nation’s history”.
On June 28 of 1993 the Executive Council of the Government of Catalonia, the decision with the unanimous support of the Parliament of Catalonia in a project to create a Museum of the History of Catalonia. The then president, Jordi Pujol, was one of the most prominent promoters. The future institution should have the main objective of making the citizens of Catalonia meet again with its history. Carme Laura Gil i Miró, the main curator, was in charge of the pedagogue. The architects Josep Benedito and Agustí Mateos are in charge of the remodeling and adaptation of the Palau de Mar. At the same time, a multidisciplinary team was formed to design the historical story, consisting of Francesc-Xavier Hernàndez, Agustí Alcoberro, Àngels Solé and Marina Miquel. Other prominent personalities like Josep Fontana, Albert Balcells, Borja de Riquer, Joan B. Culla and Josep M. Ainaud, among others, and technicians from the main museum institutions in the country, also collaborated.
This whole process was widely debated between Catalan civil society and politics. It was debated, for example, if the new institution was to be called the museum or to be called a collection or exhibition, due to its initial lack of own funds. There was also discussion of how to best represent an ideological plurality.
The History Museum of Catalonia was inaugurated on 29 February of 1996 with the intention of explaining the history of the country to the citizens of Catalonia, as well as students and people from around the world, through a permanent exhibition and several temporary exhibitions. It opened its doors to the citizens on March 4 of the same year, and about 70,000 people visited it during the first days of open doors. Its first director was Josep Maria Solé i Sabaté.
Since its opening, the museum receives thousands of visitors each year. In this way, on the first floor of the building, a space of 1,200 m² is destined for temporary exhibitions. The exhibition offer is also complemented by a series of educational, leisure and academic activities.
Over the years, the entity develops its own collection, the result of donations of objects and documents. Although very heterogeneous in nature, most of the pieces are related to the political and institutional history of Catalonia. Since 1997, the Center for Contemporary History of Catalonia (CHCC) and its important library are also located in the same building.
The Museum of History of Catalonia is part of the Network of Museums and Monuments of History of Catalonia and is dependent on the Catalan Agency for Cultural Heritage (ACdPC).
The museum was born without a collection of its own, and told the history of Catalonia through a variety of didactic museography resources, using documentation and objects from the funds of the Generalitat and other museums. He dedicated his first temporary exhibition to the Freedom March.
Gradually, the museum has received donations from material funds, historical testimonies to enrich its permanent exhibition, so it has developed its own collection of objects. In 2000, with the aim of guaranteeing historical plurality, the museum organized a team of experts in the history of Catalonia to advise the institution, update and improve its discourse. This team was made up of professionals such as Ernest Lluch, Jordi Maluquer, Carme Molinero and Pere Ysàs, among others. Due to this fact the permanent exhibition has been continuously modified since then.
In February 2004 the museum took over the management of the Monument Network owned by the Generalitat. That same year, changed all the billboards and signage putting it in three languages (Catalan, Spanish and English), to ensure their dissemination.
Currently, at a conceptual level, the museum belongs to the so-called society museums.
In 2016, it commenced a series of activities to commemorate its 20th anniversary, under the motto Twenty Years Constructing Our Memory. On February 27, the central anniversary event took place, with speeches by Santi Vila, and the director-general of Archives, Libraries, Museums and Heritage, Jusèp Boya, and then a small show was offered. will review the past, present and future of our history and of Catalan culture, based on traditional and popular dance and new artistic languages. The directors who have previously directed the museum were present: Carme Laura Gil, Josep Maria Solé, Jaume Sobrequés and Agustí Alcoberro.
The Museum of History of Catalonia occupies a sector of the former General Store of Commerce (MGC). Although the building is known as the Palau de Mar, it is actually the only preserved construction of the old industrial port of Barcelona. The MGC were designed in 1881 by the engineer Mauritius Garrán who was inspired by the English port buildings of the time. Even today you can appreciate the familiarity between the London or Liverpool docks and the Barcelona Palau de Mar.
Construction work began on 1885, on the old fisherman’s beach, and opened on July 1, 1902. The press at the time applauded the modernity of the facilities, among other novelties., incorporated lifts and conveyor belts. Railways were built around the building to facilitate the movement of goods within the port.
During the first decade of the warehouse’s existence, the Port Board was directly in charge of managing them, but in 1910 it transferred control to a private company, the Credit and Docks Company of Barcelona. After the Civil War, the MGCs accentuated their decay and ended up housing a variety of functions, including that of the Carabineros Corps.
As part of the urban improvement actions that Barcelona underwent on the occasion of the Olympic Games, in 1991 the Port Board ordered the restoration of the exterior elements of the building as an intervention prior to its complete recovery. Finally, the project to remodel and adapt the Museum of History of Catalonia, was awarded to the architects Josep Benedito i Rovira and Agustí Mateos i Duch in December 1994.
The current building combines port tradition with the dynamism of contemporary architecture. Visitors will appreciate this dialogue between the old and the new and climb onto the rooftop terrace, where they will enjoy privileged views over the harbor and the city of Barcelona.
The Museum of History of Catalonia, with the aim of disseminating its collections and bringing its collections closer to the public, launches the program “The Museum presents…”. This initiative aims to showcase outstanding and unique pieces from the collection and show them throughout the year. Selected pieces are because of their historical significance or because they have undergone a restoration process.
Our aim is to make available to everyone the information on when and how these works became part of the collection and to deepen the historical, artistic and cultural aspects, in order to improve the knowledge of the heritage that our museum preserves.
The permanent exhibition is a proposal to explore the history of Catalonia, ranging from prehistoric times to the present day, focusing its discourse on the knowledge and understanding of the characteristics and evolution of the societies that have occupied the territory today known. as in Catalonia, emphasizing both the political, the social, economic and cultural aspects, with a visibly didactic and popular character. This exhibition covers 4,000 square meters and is distributed in 7 stages:
The roots: The first stage of the exhibition goes from the lower Paleolithic to the end of the 5th century, when the western Roman Empire was defeated, giving way to the creation of the kingdom of the Visigoths of Toledo.
The birth of one nation: The second one, originates in 711, the year in which the Muslim army began the conquest of Visigoth Hispania; and goes until the conquest of Nova Catalunya, which took place in the 12th century.
Our sea, the third stage, starts from the conquest of Mallorca and Valencia by Jaume I, which took place in the 13th century, and was linked to a strong period of expansion; this section ends with the dynastic union that Ferdinand II brought with Castile following his marriage to Isabel I in 1479.
On the outskirts of the Empire, we are in a Catalonia that maintains its own state and initiates economic growth, despite being within the Austrian empire, an empire that had become the European and world empire; This was a period full of conflicts that ended in 1716 with the New Plant Decree, a decree linked to the imposition of the first king on the Spanish branch of the Bourbons, and which abolished the constitutions and institutions of Catalonia.
Steam and nation is a stage that, as the name implies, transports us to the process of industrialization in Catalonia, and also talks about how the Spanish liberal state deepens political centralization. The stage ends with the end of the 19th century, a time of revitalization of the Catalan language and culture.
The electric years give way to a characterization of 20th century Catalan industry, marked by the extension of electricity and petroleum products. It ends with the imposition of the Franco dictatorship that took place at the end of the civil war in 1939.
Undoing and taking over begins with the establishment of the dictatorship of General Franco, placing us in a frame of repression; and ends with his death in 1975, and with the transmission that his death will usher in a period of freedom.
Since its inception, the museum has held numerous temporary exhibitions, including:
Jewish Catalonia, an exhibition that presented the process of integration and everyday life of Catalan Jewish communities throughout history through numerous representative objects and documents.
Cathars and troubadours. Occitania and Catalonia: Renaissance and the Future, an exhibition that shows the relationships that have taken place throughout history between the Occitan and Catalan-speaking peoples through a selection of pieces and documents.
From the protest… to the proposal: the neighborhood movement in Catalonia, narrated, through photographs, documents and an audio-visual about the history of neighborhood associations, how they were born.
Journalism and Journalists. From the online newspapers to the public, he explained to the public how social communication has evolved in Espanta and its influence on contemporary society.
Euskadi and Catalonia: shared memory. 1936 – 1940 presented an important documentary collection of the Generalitat de Catalunya to explain how they were dispersed during the civil war and that part of the archives was kept by Basque institutions until the lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe handed them over to President Pujol.
The Museum of History of Catalonia carries out an important task of conservation, restoration and research around its collection. In this way, the entity promotes and participates in restoration projects, often related to the processes of acquisition and museum heritage. In order to make the knowledge available to the scientific community and society in general, the Museum produces documents that bring the historical context and cultural value to the acquired or preserved objects. The most special and symbolic pieces that have undergone restoration processes are on display in the ‘The Museum presents’ space.
Generalitat Monuments Network
According to Decree 201/2004 of February 24, the Museum of History of Catalonia are attributed to the monuments open to the public owned by the Generalitat of Catalonia that are in the custody of the Department of Culture and the monuments that are owned by others public or private entities, which have been entrusted with the management of the Department of Culture.
Since then, the facilities have been improved, creating master plans and regulating the uses and functions of the different spaces. Also they have been musealizar and creating speeches that facilitate the interpretation of the spaces to the maximum number of citizens. The first monuments that were transferred in 2004 were: The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, the Canonica de Santa Maria de Vilabertran, the Miravet Castle, the Torre de la Manresana, the Granada Castle, the Monastery of Sant Pere of the Portella, the Castle and canonical of Sant Vicenç de Cardona, the Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria d’Escaladei, theRoyal monastery of Santes Creus, the castle Monastery of Sant Miquel d’Escornalbou, the Convent of Sant Francesc de Montblanc, the Seu Vella of Lleida, the Royal Chapel of Santa Agata, the Convent of Sant Bartomeu, the House Museum Rafael Casanova, the Moja Palace and the Prat de la Riba House Museum.