HERITAGE, MUSEUMS AND THE CITY
Unlike the great museums of Spain, the museums of Barcelona have
been characterised historically by the active commitment of the
City Council to create and develop institutions and by the private
origin of many of the collections.
This Central Book examines the main events in this history from
the first proposals to catalogue the city's heritage in the late
18th century to the great achievements of the 19th and early twentieth
century, and ending with a detailed reference on the museum policies
that were applied on the return of democracy.
A substantial proportion of the articles present the major projects
that are now underway, placing them in the context of modern museology
and the cultural, economic and political dynamics of society,
without forgetting the role of new technologies. Museums of art,
science and history and archives are considered in the dual aspect
of their current situation and the lines that they must follow
in their future evolution.
This overview is supplemented with a discussion on the role of
museums in education and tourism and an analysis of the architectural
theory and practice applied to the construction of the buildings,
which often become spectacular works of art in their own right.
MUSEUM POLICY IN BARCELONA
(1975-2000): An account of 25 years of programmes
by Ferran Mascarell, councillor
for culture and
president of the barcelona institute of culture
The museum policy of the city of Barcelona over the period 1975-2000
has been structured in accordance with two basic conditioning
factors. The first is specific to the Catalan scene: Barcelona
is a major European metropolis and the capital of a culture, but
not the capital of a state (...). The second concerns the development
of the role that culture - and museums - have come to adopt in
society, mirroring new economic and social trends (...).
In 1907 the Mancomunitat of Catalonia set up the Museums Board
(...), which established guidelines for the creation of a system
of museums that brought together the need to express the unique
identifying features of Catalan culture and the conception of
museums as a key element for knowledge and education at the service
of the citizen.
The work of the Museums Board, like that of so many other projects
in this country, was cut short by the Civil War and General Franco's
The first elected town councils were set up in 1979 (...). The
White Paper on Museums was drafted to provide: (1) A tool with
which to raise the city's museums to European standards, (2) A
set of guidelines for heritage preservation policy, (3) basic
facilities for popularization activities along the lines of access
to culture and its democratization (...).
Control over cultural policy was ceded to the Generalitat (Government)
of Catalonia in 1980 (...). The early governments (...) opted
for a pronounced interventionism (...). The Museums Plan of 1985
(...) marked the beginning of a period of partial agreements between
the City Council and the Catalan Government. First came the creation
of the Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum Consortium (1988); this
led to a further inter-institutional agreement for the National
Art Museum of Catalonia; and subsequently an agreement was signed
for the rehabilitation of its buildings in the National Palace
in Montjuïc (...).
In 1990 the Catalan Parliament passed the Museums Act. The Act
stipulated that the functions and tutelage of museum facilities
are the responsibility of the Generalitat and included provision
for the creation of the Museums Board (...). Also in 1990, the
Museums and Cultural Heritage Management Centre came into operation,
construction work began on the CCCB (Barcelona Centre for Contemporary
Culture), Pedralbes Monastery was refurbished to house part of
the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, [and] we find yet another example
of the important part played by civil society in the make-up of
the city's museums: the inauguration of the Tàpies Foundation.
The gestation and constitution of the Barcelona Institute of Culture
(ICUB) as an independent body for the management of municipal
cultural policy coincided with the last of the inaugurations of
the major new cultural facilities (the CCCB in 1994 and the MACBA
in 1995) and marked the beginning of the last stage in the conformation
of Barcelona's museums as it stands at present.
This new period is characterized by a succession of social and
economic changes, which have brought Barcelona to opt firmly for
culture as a driving force for the knowledge society (...).
THE NATIONAL ART MUSEUM OF CATALONIA
by Eduard Carbonell Esteller director-general
of the national art museum of catalonia
The National Art Museum of Catalonia or MNAC dates back to the
end of the 19th century (...). Its original collections consisted
of works of art affected by the confiscation of Church property
and recuperated by institutions and members of the public. This
desire to recover and preserve the artistic heritage was also
to define the subsequent evolution of the museum and its character
(...). Thus, the recuperation of the art of the Pyrenean churches,
chiefly Romanesque mural paintings, but also Romanesque and Gothic
movable art, (...) made for this sense of protecting the art of
a territory, a country (...). Its collections were enhanced with
purchases (...), donations (...) and the bequest left by F. Cambó
(...). It became somewhat specialized in mediaeval art, particularly
for its unique collection of Romanesque mural painting, and its
rich collection of Gothic pieces. It has a more international
collection of Renaissance and Baroque works (...) alongside Catalan
art of the same period (...).
As of 1924, the museum was housed in the former Arsenal in the
Citadel, and from 1934 on, in the National Palace in Montjuïc,
which had been built for the Universal Exhibition of 1929. The
various collections were split up following the Civil War (...),
spoiling their continuity of discourse. The Museums Act of the
end of 1990 made the Art Museum of Catalonia a national museum,
and brought the various collections back to Montjuïc. This
has involved carrying out rehabilitation work on the National
Palace, which is due for completion in autumn 2003, when the museum
will constitute an account of the history of art from the Romanesque
to around 1950 (...).
The museum has an important part to play in the network of art
museums in Catalonia (...). In must somehow become the territorial
backbone of Catalan art history, through its relationship with
other art museums, particularly specialized museums (...).
A country's obligation to explain its art, comparing it when possible
with art from abroad (and this depends on its collections) is
manifested here in an all-embracing project which to our mind
enables us to make a coherent approach to Europe (...).
THE MACBA FROM A CRITICAL APPROACH TO CULTURE
by Manuel J. Borja-Villel director
of the barcelona contemporary art museum
(...). The creation of the MACBA, officially inaugurated in 1995,
should be seen in the context of a series of schemes carried out
in Barcelona throughout the eighties and the first half of the
nineties, the aim of which was the urban replanning of the city
and its reorientation towards an outgoing type of economy (...).
In recent decades one of the basic objectives of capitalism has
been to extract formulas for producing and consuming vital experiences
in their various manifestations (...). In this context, the museum
runs the risk of confusion with the theme park (...).
A museum of a progressive nature cannot be a mere accumulation
but rather a centre for creation, and by definition it is hostile
to the idea of accumulation (...). If museums want to make a break
with their monumental nature they must abandon their aims and
constantly espouse new ones (...).
As it stands at present, the MACBA's collection focuses on the
art produced in the last 50 years, and it is articulated from
a critical perspective that takes into account both its historical
reality and the local context. This premise involves understanding
the history of art as a construction, and not as a one-way narration
It is essential to move on from a discourse of the objects of
knowledge to a discourse of the subjects of knowledge. And it
is also important for institutions (...) to work positively to
produce a specific relationship between the artwork and the spectator.
It is extremely important for the museum to stop being an archaeology
of modernity and to take on a post-modern praxis (...). The intellectuals
must re-create a culture of rebellion (...). And in this the museum
can and must play a very important part.
The science museums of Barcelona: an asset to develop
by Carme Prats Joaniquet
director of the science centres and museums. barcelona institute
(...) Under the name "The Science Observatory of the Mediterranean
City" a programme has been started up with the aim of using
Barcelona's science centres and museums to create a space for
the interpretation and orientation of Barcelona with regard to
heritage and science, combining the physical facilities of each
museum with the virtual facet (...). The Observatory also lays
open for study an issue that is of great importance for today's
society: knowledge of the city (...). In addition, there are plans
to enter into agreements in the near future with institutions
dedicated to tourist and leisure programmes, with a view to their
incorporating science culture as an added attraction (...).
As part of the projects for Barcelona as a "knowledge city",
two of the most emblematic of the city's parks, Ciutadella and
Montjuïc Parks, will constitute major focal points for the
popularization of science. The activity carried out there is designed
to mesh with that which will take place as of 2004 in the new
cultural and leisure area to be built in El Poblenou (...). This
area, which will re-house part of the Zoo premises, will complete
Barcelona's range of science facilities at the service of the
general public (...).
The rationalization and updating of these centres, which are the
richest in Catalonia in terms of scientific heritage, is the first
and necessary step towards laying the foundations of a future
Natural History Museum of Catalonia of national scope (...).
Basic principles of modern science museology
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MODERN SCIENCE MUSEOLOGY
by Jorge Wagensberg
director of the "la caixa" foundation science museum
The title is deliberately excessive. In fact these are just 13
working hypotheses drawn from the successes and failures (...)
of 20 years of "museum-making" at the "La Caixa"
Foundation's Science Museum in Barcelona (...).
A Science Museum (SM) is a space devoted to arousing stimuli in
the visitor towards scientific knowledge and the scientific method
(...) and fostering scientific opinion in the layperson (...).
The target audience of the exhibitions at an SM is universal,
with no limits as regards age (from seven upwards), education,
cultural level or any other characteristic (...).
The priority museological and museographical element is Reality
Museographical elements are used primarily to stimulate (...)
three types of interactivity with the visitor: (...) manual, i.e.
appealing to provocative emotion, (...), mental, i.e., appealing
to intelligible emotion (...), and cultural, i.e., appealing to
cultural emotion (...).
The best stimuli to make the layperson follow the scientist are
inspired by the same stimuli that make scientists do science (
The best method for imagining, designing and producing museographical
facilities is the scientific method itself (
The content of an SM can be any piece of reality from the quark
to Shakespeare, as long as the stimuli and the way they are exhibited
are scientific (...).
The museum is a collective space (...). This defines a hierarchy
of values in the museographical space with regard to the number
of visitors that can use it at the same time (...).
The concept of the "guiding thread" is only one of several
possible options (
Some themes are particularly museographical, while others are
best dealt with by other media (...).
There is museographical rigour and scientific rigour (...).
In an SM the visitor is treated as an adult (...).
The role of an MS in a democratically organized society is to
serve as a common and credible setting bridging four sectors:
1) Society itself, understood as the grassroots citizen who receives
the benefits of science, 2) The science community, in which scientific
knowledge is generated, 3) The production and services sector,
where science is put to use, and 4) Government, where science
is managed (...).
HISTORIES AND MUSEUMS
by Montserrat Iniesta
director of vilafranca museum / the wine museum
(...) The Catalan museums, which grew up over the 20th century
in tandem with the recovery of civic and political institutions,
are today faced with the challenge of finding their place within
an uncertain set of "national" cultural policies (...).
The system of national museums appears to have been conceived
from a backward-looking perspective, under that syndrome of the
nation aspiring to statehood that is so much a part of the modern
Why does Catalonia need history museums? The place to be occupied
by history in the construction of the country's collective imagination
warrants in-depth public debate. One of the symptoms of the serious
predicament which Catalan society feels itself to be in is the
omnipresence of historicist and heritage-based discourses (...).
The museum can only survive amid the debates on contemporaneity
if it is capable of transforming itself into a forum, an open
space for dialogue and confrontation. This is particularly relevant
to history museums, which can no longer limit themselves to conveying
one-way "historical" identities or facts, and increasingly
will be forced to open up to the representation of the passages,
the gaps, the aborted alternatives, the conflicts that define
the way societies reflect themselves in their past in order to
either renew or contest a consensus (...).
MUSEUMS, HERITAGE AND THE LOCAL
by Carles Vicente Guitart
historian, head of the cultural heritage office of barcelona provincial
(...) In general, the activity of a museum is marked by a close
link between the collections it holds and the services it offers.
In the case of local museums, the cultural and natural ecosystem
is the object to research, preserve and popularize (...).
Local museums can approach heritage in two distinct ways; one
is the traditional, static way, which consists of using it as
the refuge of the memory and storehouse of history (this is the
case of many of the collections and small museums scattered all
over Catalonia). The other approach is a dynamic one that responds
better to the needs of an active cultural policy and seeks to
use the testimony of the past to try and understand the present
The local museums of Catalonia are largely of public ownership,
for the most part municipal. The renovation schemes of recent
decades have prompted a certain amount of specialization, and
a broad overview of all these museums affords an accurate national
picture of Catalan heritage (...).
The local museum only has any meaning in its location. It works
within a region whose boundaries are administratively more indistinct,
of a more biological, geographical or cultural nature. And above
all, it works for a much more recognizable community, with names
and faces (...). Local museums represent a model for the cultural
centre that is based on proximity to the interests and motivations
of its citizens (...).
PRIVATE COLLECTING AND THE MUSEUMS OF BARCELONA
by Luis Monreal
director-general of the "la caixa" foundation
One of the features that distinguish the museums of Barcelona
as a whole from those of other Spanish and European cities is
the part that private collecting has played in their creation
and development (...). This series of illustrious Barcelona collectors
began with Eduardo Toda Güell (1855-1941). His interest in
Pharaonic archaeology led him to undertake and finance digs at
several ancient Egyptian sites. The objects discovered became
first part of his own collection, and as of 1886, of that of the
Balaguer Library and Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú (...).
In the first half of the 20th century several major collections
were created in Barcelona society. First, the politician Francesc
Cambó (...) dedicated part of his fortune to acquiring
paintings by the international schools, mainly those of the Renaissance
and the Baroque. Other important collectors included Santiago
Espona and Lluís Plandiura (...). The most conspicuous
example of private collecting in Barcelona was the sculptor Frederic
Marés i Deulovol (1893-1991) (...). After the Civil War
he dedicated virtually the entirety of the income he received
from his artistic activity to building a huge collection which
in 1946 (...) became what we know today as the Marés Museum
Another great Barcelona collector of the latter half of the 20th
century was Francisco Godia Sales (...). His collection was installed
in his home at the former Conventet or "Little Monastery",
an annex of Pedralbes Monastery (...).
A recent addition to the panorama of Barcelona museums originating
from private collections is the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, which
was formed by the entrustment of part of the Barbier-Mueller collection,
the headquarters of which is in Geneva. It is housed in a palace
in Montcada Street (...).
One of the latest initiatives undertaken by a Barcelona private
collector is the Egyptian Museum, belonging to the Clos Foundation
Finally, we should mention the activity of the "La Caixa"
Foundation, which (...) has constituted a major collection of
contemporary art starting with works produced in the 1980s and
concentrating especially on the 1990s (...). As of the end of
2001, (...) it will have a permanent headquarters at the new Barcelona
Exhibition Centre: CaixaForum (...).
THE MUSEUM AS AN ARCHITECTURAL EVENT
by Josep Maria Montaner professor of
(...) Within the huge range of examples that are in constant
renovation in the architecture of museums, a series of dominant
positions can be perceived (...).
AT THE CROSSROADS BETWEEN EDUCATION AND THE TOUR OPERATOR
The museum as an extraordinary organism.- First of all there is
the museum construed as a unique organism. This is the approach
that was pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright (...). The most emblematic
work that adopts this position is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
The museum as a box.- At the same time, the modern idea of the
museum as a functional container continues to be applied (...).
The "museum museum".- In the wake of the boom in typological
criticism of the sixties and seventies, the world of museums has
gravitated towards what we might call the "museum museum",
in other words, projects in which the stress is on the typological
tradition of the museum as such; its spatial structures. This
is what Rafael Moneo has done in all his works (...).
The minimalist museum.- (...) There are those who attempt to probe
beyond time and seek the archetypal idea, the essential form,
of the museum: a primitive treasure, a sacred place, an archaeological
dig, a public portal, a space of timeless light (...).
The museum as a collage of fragments.- (...). An emblematic case
of this would be Richard Meier, author of the controversial Barcelona
Contemporary Art Museum or MACBA (1994) (...).
The museum that hinges on itself.- There remains the model of
the introspective museum, that is, the museum that hinges on itself,
in a delicate balance between the interiority of the functional
layout and the exteriority of its adaptation to its surroundings
The dematerialized museum.- Lastly, there is the media museum
and that whose objective is the dissolution of the space of the
museum and the relativization of the presence of the original.
by Jordi Pardo
(...) Museums and heritage stand at a crossroads of tendencies.
To be more precise, this is the same confusing and disperse crossroads
at which ideas and values stand in the framework of the one-way
ideology that appears to be imposing itself left, right and centre:
the law of the market, void of any nuances of meaning or balance.
In the banal commercialization of culture, the value of work and
effort, innovation and creativity, knowledge and rigour, seems
to count for very little. As a result, we are faced with the danger
that our heritage may end up being exclusively for tourists and
Our cultural heritage is testimony to the mistakes and the successes
of our past, the contradictions between felicity and penury, the
counter-sense of history, and the relative value of the concepts
of progress and evolution. In short, museums and heritage are
generators of questions (...). The result will be the fostering
of scientific or artistic creation, and the furtherance of its
enjoyment; an individual experience that cannot be reduced to
the cold, mercantilist counting of visitors. The measure of the
success of culture-based tourist attractions should be the sum
of economic viability and the evaluation of quality (...).
If shopping malls take the place of city streets and squares (...)
we will have replaced the forum with the superstore (...). We
cannot allow museums to develop into culture-based shopping complexes
The museums of Barcelona have the necessary conditions to overcome
this relationship between education and tourism. All they require
is a push in the right direction to become the factories of knowledge
that contemporary society needs (...).
A CITY OF MUNICIPAL MUSEUMS
by Andrea A. Garcia
(...) The history of municipal commitment to the formation of
the city's museums must be sought in the Council's will to respond
to the demands made by its citizens (...). Another of the city's
distinguishing features (...) is the formation of the museums'
collections. Whereas the great museums of Spain were created out
of collections ceded by the royal family, the museums of Barcelona
are stocked with heritage obtained by stimulating their own abilities
and developing their real possibilities (...).
One dominant characteristic in the history of the municipal museums
(...) is the fact that they tend to opt for using buildings of
historical and/or artistic interest as containers for the museums
(...). From the moment the Municipal Board of Museums and Fine
Arts set about its task of giving a more solid shape to the city's
museological policy, stress was placed on the need to recover
the former Arsenal in the Citadel as the headquarters for the
municipal museums (...) [In 1915 the inauguration took place]
of the museum complex known as the Art and Archaeology Museums
We would like to focus again on the two stages that marked the
museological policy arising out of the change to the democratic
regime (...). The change began to take shape in the Department
of Culture of the pre-democratic City Council, which commissioned
a study on the situation of its museums (...). It was the new
democratic Council that made the complete content of this study
public (...). The proposal for the reform of the municipal museums
laid the foundations for a General Plan for museums and complementary
activities. This work line facilitated the re-planning of the
museums and their greater proximity to the general public, who
lived far removed from these institutions, and also opened up
channels for co-responsibility by involving the professionals
of the museum world in the project.
This period of dynamism was marked by an active policy of temporary
exhibitions, the publication of catalogues, guides, posters and
popularization material, and the recovery of spaces for cultural