The exhibition “Textile Factory” shows The process of producing woollen fabric within the original context of a mill dating from the early 20th century. The permanent exhibition “The Textile Mill” displays the whole process of producing woollen fabric within the original context of a mill dating from the early 20th century, with a modern and evocative Museum presentation. The exhibition occupies a total surface area of 2,200 m2, including the energy areas in the basement, the steam engine room and the production gallery of the former Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover mill.
The tour begins in the former basement of the mill, which still houses the coal stores, boilers, chimney and steam engine, the heart of the factory. The route then moves on to the shop floor to observe the different stages in the production process, from preparation of the wool to be spun, spinning itself, dyes and finishes, and the warehouse.
Along the way, visitors are treated to an outstanding collection of textile machinery, the only of its kind in Catalonia, in terms of both its technical quality and its state of presentation. The exhibition recreates the woollen mill setting, the noise and movement of the steam engine, the functioning of the spinning machines and looms, the everyday life of the workers and the social tensions that gave rise to the founding of the labour movement.
1. The Coal Stores
2. The Chimney
3. Industrialists And Workers
4. Spinning The Wool For Weaving
5. Dyes And Finishes
6. The Boilers
7. The Steam Machine
8. Preparing The Wool For Spinning
9. Weaving The Wool
10. The Warehouse
Model of the building
This building of the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia, the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover, represents the best modernist industrial architectural work in the country. Designed by the architect Lluís Muncunill, it was opened in 1909.The spectacular roof is an outstanding feature of the building, with its saw tooth form. The usual flat forms of this type of roof were reinterpreted by Muncunill, using 161 flat brick vaults, also known as the Catalan vault. They were supported by 300 cast iron columns that also served as water drainpipes and as a support for the struts.
Coal stacks and Boilers
The bunkers were where the coal, to fuel the steam machinery, was stored. Catalonia underwent industrialisation without having coal or iron at its disposal. Coal in the country was scarce, expensive and of poor quality; for this reason, it was necessary to import coal from Wales and Asturias. It was transported by steamers to the Port of Barcelona, and by train to Terrassa.
The Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover chimney is 41 meters high and 2.30 meters in diameter on the outside; it is built of the same brick as the rest of the factory. The chimney was the exit conduit for the boiler smoke. The hot smoke created air currents as it rose which drew the smoke from inside the boiler furnace to the outside.
The steam engine was the heart of the factory. It was commonly known as “the mule”, as it operated all the machinery in the industrial unit. The engine on display is not originally from the factory. It was built in 1897 by the Maquinista Terrestre i Marítima company and used at the Ponsa del Poblenou silk scarf factory in Barcelona.
The original steam engine from this factory has not survived but was sold for scrap in 1915 following the introduction of electricity. The photographs show it was a double-expansion steam engine, using steam twice, at high pressure and at low pressure.
Factory owner’s office
The standardised working practices at the factory resulted in a significant transformation of working life. Two new social groups emerged: the factory owners and the workers. They shared the factory space, but their living and working conditions kept them worlds apart. This would generate social unrest, with frequent strike action.
Workers changing rooms
The male and female workers’ lives revolved around their working hours. Control of working hours meant a huge transformation to working life, with a new system of organisation and discipline. The signal that marked the beginning and end of the working day was the sounding of a bell, or more frequently, a siren. In 1913, the working day usually lasted about 11 hours. Working conditions were arduous: long working hours, high levels of humidity and noise, air filled with dust and specks of fibre, etc. Wages were low, and women were paid less because men and women’s pay was not equal.
The first operation the wool fibres had to undergo was sorting. Those responsible for sorting spread the fleeces out on the sorting table. The fleeces were freed of dirt, straw and other impurities and were classified according to the breed of sheep, the part of the body they came from, and the colour, length and fineness of the fibre.
In the carding opener the wool fleeces were placed on a conveyor belt and passed between two cylinders and then deposited in the drum. The different speed and direction of the barrel of the drum with respect to that of the cylinders caused the fleeces to open and transformed them into a fine layer, called sheets. The first mechanical carding opener dates back to 1748.
The Selfactin is a spinning machine that first stretches and twists the strand and then winds the fibre onto a spindle. It consists of two parts: the fixed part, called a rack, responsible for the stretching, and a detachable part, called a shuttle, where the twisting and the winding of the fibres took place. The invention of the Selfactin, in 1824, led to women becoming involved in spinning, as it required little physical effort and great manual dexterity.
The Jacquard loom, invented in 1804, made the production of mechanically manufactured fabrics of greater size, perfection and colour possible. This loom consisted of a machine called a Jacquard in the upper part, which used a series of perforated cards to create a pattern. As the needles of the machine were inserted through each of the holes in the cartons, the fibres of the warp were selected and intertwined with the threads of the weave, creating the pattern.
The dye vat was used to dye fabric and skeins. It consisted of a rectangular wooden vat with a perforated double lining; a coil, where cold water entered, and a steam spout that heated the dye bath. The discovery of alizarin, by Groebe and Lubermann in 1969, meant that chemical dyes were introduced, gradually replacing natural ones.
Roof of the building
The building of the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia represents the best modernist architectural work in Catalonia. The Museum has a total area of 22,200 m2, 11,000 of which corresponds to the former factory floor. The architect Muncunill managed to achieve something that was by no means an easy feat: to design an industrial building that was functional, yet also a magnificent work of art at the same time, through the use of the flat brick vault.
National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia
The National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC) is one of the three recognized by the Parliament of Catalonia national museums. Its mission is to permanently show the implementation and development of scientific and technical progress in Catalonia, industrial application and especially their involvement and social impact.
The National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia is the product of the rich and lengthy heritage of scientific and technical innovation and knowledge, and the industrial application of this, as developed in this country over the centuries. Although the plans for a museum dedicated to the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge, vocational development in these two fields and the preservation of the most substantial material records of the technical creativity of humanity, and the most significant objects invented or manufactured in this country, originally dates back to the early 20th century, it was not until 1984 that they were to take shape in the form of this cultural and social landmark museum.
The mNACTEC and its Territorial Structure, closely linked to Catalan industrial society, as an element of national identity and focus, decentralised, innovative, regionally implemented and with the utmost social return and impact, has over the course of 35 years successfully positioned itself as an international flagship and model presenting the uniqueness, specificity and social impact of scientific, technical and industrial culture in Catalonia. Despite the economic difficulties the country finds itself in, the mNACTEC maintains, consolidates and underpins the growth and expansion of this important museum, heritage, cultural and social project with new aims, greater expectations and an even greater dose of renewed enthusiast and interest.
We are in a moment of social change which is forcing us to focus all our efforts in the consolidation of the existing spaces, updating the Museum’s programming, planning new initiatives, ensuring access to a suitable structure, updating and expanding the museumological discourse of the Territorial System when applicable, and encouraging new projects providing incentives which further allow us to become a national museum of note in the new museumology of the 21st century. It should be a modern dynamic museum which must necessarily have major direct involvement in our contemporary society without forgetting its important role in the recovery, conservation and valorization of the scientific, technical and industrial heritage and culture of Catalonia without forgetting the power and drive of our people who, by making this heritage their own, transform the mNACTEC into a living project serving and promoting “the soul” of this society, reminds us where we came from, what we are and where we want to go.