Mirror and portal of Barcelona
The Barcelona History Museum (Barcelona History Museum or MUHBA) is responsible for conserving and documenting the collections and the architecture of the city that have been entrusted to the institution. The Museum also works to spread knowledge about the city’s history, from its origins to the present day – from the Roman colony of Barcino and its walls to the age of the revolution of medieval commerce and the great Gothic buildings; from the testimonies of the industrial revolution to Cerdà’s Eixample district and the works of Modernisme and Gaudí, and from the turbulent, creative Barcelona of the early 20th century to the city of the Olympic Games.
The Museum officially opened on 14 April 1943, thanks to the efforts of Agustí Duran i Sanpere, who became its first director. It belongs to the Barcelona City Council, as part of the Institut de Cultura (ICUB, Culture Institute) and features several researched display spaces, located at different points in the city. The Museum's original headquarters is the monumental site of Plaça del Rei, which extends from Casa Padellàs to Palau Reial Major, and has an archaeological subsoil of the ancient and early mediaeval city.
The Museum is understood to be a mirror of Barcelona and aims to reflect the changes and continuities that have shaped the city's urban life over the course of the past 2,000 years. It encourages a more detailed understanding of its historic and artistic heritage. This work is carried out through a programme organised into multiple formats: visits and tours of museum spaces, city routes and walks, exhibitions, lectures, debates and concerts, one-day conferences and seminars, books, historical guides, new digital formats and heritage products.
The Museum has thus become a portal to help people learn about and appreciate Barcelona, a European metropolis and national capital of Catalonia. It has been designed for Barcelona residents and tourists, and focuses not only on the heritage spaces with which the institution has been entrusted, but also on the city as a whole and its history and progress in relation to other world capitals.
To help develop its activities, the Museum promotes research, innovation and training relating to history and Barcelona’s wide-ranging heritage – from its archaeological and architectural heritage to its cuisine, literature and music. The Museum has become an R&D+i centre for the purpose of cultural revitalization and economic innovation, founded on a strong framework of links with academic centres, cultural institutions, citizens’ organisations and other city museums and research centres in Europe.
The Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA) already has a long history: conceived during the first third of the 20th century and prefigured in the Barcelona Pavilion of the International Exhibition of 1929, it finally located its main headquarters in 1943 at the Casa Padellàs and at the Plaza del Rey. Its function is to conserve, study, document, disseminate and exhibit the historical heritage and history of Barcelona from its origins to the present day.
The MUHBA depends on the Barcelona City Council through the Institute of Culture of Barcelona (ICUB) and brings together a whole set of different heritage spaces relevant to the history of the city. These spaces are connected with the contents they exhibit, making dialogue between history and heritage, and are distributed throughout the different neighborhoods and districts of the city.
These spaces of the museum show:
- The Roman colony, with the excavations of the Plaça del Rei, the Temple of Augustus, the Roman Funeral Way, the Domus Avinyó, the Domus of Sant Honorat and the Door of the Sea and the Dockside Thermal Baths;
- the medieval city, with the Palau Reial, including the Chapel of St. Agatha and the Saló del Tinell, the Call, which examines the history of the Jewish community in the city of Barcelona, and Santa Caterina
- and the modern and industrial city, from the perspective of the ambition of European capital in the casa del Guarda of the Park Güell, from literary stories at Vil·la Joana, from urban supply at Casa de l’Aigua, from the city of work at Fabra i Coats, from the war and the post-war period (at Refugi 307 and at Turó de la Rovira) and from the perspective of Barcelona as a contemporary metropolis at Oliva Artés.
The spaces of the MUHBA do not function as separate spheres. On the contrary, they constitute polarities that intertwine to create a flexible and plural narrative of Barcelona that is constructed from different historical, temporal and sectorial perspectives. Therefore, the Museum must be seen as a museum with rooms spread throughout the city and as such it tries to be a mirror and a portal from which to observe and access the history and heritage of Barcelona.
The MUHBA thus becomes a museum of proximity, but without losing its status as a museum of the city. Thanks to this dual dimension, it is an instrument of urban policy with a remarkable potential to blur boundaries and distances between the center and the peripheries. One of the objectives is to approach the periphery from the center and at the same time vice versa: to bring cultural centrality to the neighborhoods, articulating stories and promoting heritage in a shared action both with the social and cultural fabric and with local research centers and other equivalent institutions. It should be added that the work of the museum, straddling cultural and urban policies, is consolidating, in dialogue with other European city museums, a model of action open to the city and the citizenry that is being explored in the Network of European City Museums, promoted and directed by the MUHBA.
Research is a sign of identity of the public programming of the Museum of the History of Barcelona and is organized with the purpose of achieving maximum synergies to nurture the entire Museum system. This is embodied in the projects carried out by CRED (the Center for Research and Debate), the space of confluence of research carried out from all areas of the Museum, which are carried out with the collaboration of other entities or external professionals and whose results are shown in various formats, such as dialogues on urban history and heritage, seminars, conferences or conferences, but also in exhibitions, concerts, visits, urban itineraries, audiovisuals, virtual tours and publications. Or it can also be materialized in the gestation of a digital project such as the Historical Charter of Barcelona (Carta Històrica de Barcelona). For the MUHBA, blurring the boundaries between research and dissemination is one of the most important contributions that a city museum can provide for the democratization of knowledge.
On the other hand, the museum has also made an effort to develop a varied school program called Interrogar Barcelona (Question Barcelona), aimed at students from kindergarten to high school. This project brings together joint work programs between the museum and schools and aims to provide the keys to read, interpret and, cooperatively, build knowledge about the history of the city of Barcelona from its historical and artistic heritage and urban forms and landscapes. In addition to visits, itineraries and school workshops, the educational programs include Patrimonia'm, the Viatge oper Barcelona (Journey through Barcelona) and the Casal d'Estiu. Likewise, based on the lines of work and public policies carried out by the museum, training is offered that, for example, seeks the renewal of historical and heritage conceptualization.
Finally, the Collections Center and the Archaeological Archive, located in the Zona Franca, houses, documents and also researches the museum's extensive material collection. This collection has more than 40,000 pieces from bequests, donations and archaeological interventions that allow its constant increase. At the same time, it also ensures the conservation and restoration of the collections, archaeological sites and historic buildings that make up the network of heritage centers under the MUHBA's guidance.