80 years of history: towards the citizenship museum
Since the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1888, there have been several institutional attempts to create a permanent exhibition and specific collections of the history of Barcelona.
The most relevant have been the collection of pieces that had its own space in the Museum of Art and Archaeology located in the old arsenal of the Ciutadella (current seat of the Parliament of Catalonia) and the exhibition organized by the historian Agustí Duran i Sanpere in the Barcelona pavilion of the International Exhibition of 1929, which was no longer a mere gathering of singular pieces, but was articulated around an explanatory discourse about the city. Likewise, from 1877 to 1932, the chapel of Santa Agata, at the Plaça del Rei, was fully devoted to museum uses as the headquarters of the Museum of Antiquities of Barcelona.
The decisive event for the origin of the Museum of History of Barcelona was the transfer of the Padellàs House, stone by stone, from Mercaders Street to the site at Plaça del Rei, on the corner of Carrer Veguer, in 1931, as a consequence of the opening of the Via Laietana. The foundation works of the house in its new location uncovered the remains of an important part of the ancient Barcino and gave rise to an ambitious archaeological intervention at the entire Plaça del Rei that continued until the Civil War. This discovery, together with the recovery of the Palau Reial Major following the dismantling of the Santa Àgata museum and the rehabilitation of the Saló del Tinell (occupied until 1936 by the community of the former convent of Santa Clara in Barcelona), confirmed the suitability of the monumental complex of the Plaça del Rei as the site for the planned museum of the history of Barcelona.
THE CITY HISTORY MUSEUM
The museum was inaugurated after the Civil War, in 1943, as the City History Museum, and was integrated within the Municipal Institute of History. Its first director was Agustí Duran i Sanpere, who had been working on its conception since before the war.
The foundational core of the museum was based on the municipal collections of Barcelona's history that had been built up since the 19th century and on the heritage spaces, which included the monumental complex of the Plaça del Rei (the Casa Padellàs, the basement with the excavations, the Saló del Tinell and the chapel of Santa Àgata).
Gradually, the City History Museum incorporated annexed spaces, such as the Roman temple of Barcelona, the Roman sepulchral road at Plaça Vila de Madrid or the remains of a Roman villa found at Plaça Antoni Maura (not open to visitors). Also, the Gallery of Illustrious Catalans -currently at the Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona- and Vil·la Joana in Vallvidrera, which the Barcelona City Council agreed to convert into a museum dedicated to the memory of Jacint Verdaguer, in 1962, were integrated into the museum.
Apart from the excavations in the Plaça del Rei and other places in the city, the archaeological interventions carried out by the museum in the Roman wall made it possible to find and add to its collections significant testimonies of the Roman city, as well as excavations in the subsoil of the cathedral, which in 1968 led to the discovery of a paleochristian baptistery.
The construction of a concrete cover for the archaeological remains in the Plaça del Rei in 1961 and the connection between these and the Casa Padellàs in 1962 meant the full integration of the archaeological subsoil into the museum's discourse. In addition, the involvement of the museum in archaeological activity and research meant that for many years the Barcelona Archaeology Service was directly linked to the City History Museum.
As for the museum project, it can be considered that it did not reach maturity until the early 1960s, with the full definition of its permanent exhibition, located in the Casa Padellàs, with rooms dedicated to the ancient municipal regime, the guilds and brotherhoods of Barcelona, the calico industry, the Corpus Christi procession and the popular and festive imagery of the city, the eighteenth-century Barcelona and the urban reform, and the opening of the Via Laietana.
In 1960 the museum began publishing the journal Cuadernos de Arqueología e Historia de la Ciudad, which reflected the archaeological and research activity carried out by the museum, the latter channeled by the Seminario de Arqueología e Historia de la Ciudad. Two years later, the journal Miscellanea Barcinonensia (1962-1978) began to be published, self-defined as a journal of research and high culture, formally a publication of the City Council but also produced by the museum and reflecting in detail the official cultural life of those times.
With the arrival of the democratic city councils in 1979, in the midst of a very broad debate on the renovation of the museums of Barcelona and Catalonia as a whole, the need for an update of the facilities of the old Museum of 'History of the City and its conceptual rethinking became apparent.
Various projects and events responded to these desires, such as the incorporation of the neighboring building to the Casa Padellàs and a new museographic adaptation of a sector of the archaeological subsoil begun in 1982 and completed in 1991.
In 1993 the obsolete permanent exhibition rooms of the Casa Padellàs were dismantled, with the aim of renovating the museum. And so, since 1996, the same rooms have hosted numerous temporary exhibitions dedicated to the review of various aspects of the history of Barcelona, starting with the exhibition "Barcelona in the time of the Habsburgs" (1996), which showed a significant part of the museum's collection of modern times.
Since 1996 the museum has depended on the Institute of Culture of Barcelona (ICUB) as a result of the creation of this organization, which brings together all the municipal functions in the field of culture. Between 1998 and 1999 a complete museographic renovation of the entire archaeological area of the museum was carried out, with the incorporation of the new knowledge generated by the latest research, collected in the book De Barcino a Barcinona (From Barcino to Barcinona, 2001).
Since 2007 it has been called the Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA). The museum has strengthened its interest in contemporary Barcelona and has grown as a network with the implementation of the Conservation and Restoration Center, which includes the Archaeological Archive (2006), and the renovation or incorporation of new heritage centers distributed throughout the neighborhoods and districts of Barcelona, such as the Pedralbes Monastery (linked to MUHBA between 1999 and 2012), the Park Güell guard house (2002), Refugi 307 (2003), Santa Caterina (2007), MUHBA El Call (2008) ), the Domus of Sant Honorat (2010), el Turó de la Rovira (2011) and La Casa de l'Aigua (2011).