The Museu d’Història de Barcelona 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.
The Museum of the History of Barcelona or MUHBA works to spread knowledge about the city’s history, from its origins to the present day – from the Roman colony of Barcino to the city of the Olympic Games. 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 is responsible for conserving and documenting the collections and the architecture of the city that have been entrusted to the institution. The MUHBA’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 History of the MUHBA
The Museum was formally created in April 1940 and it was originally called the Museum of the History of the City. It opened officially on 14 April 1943 as part of the Institut Municipal d’Història (Municipal History Institute). After the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1888, several institutional attempts were made to create a permanent exhibition and a series of collections specifically on the history of Barcelona. The most notable of these was a collection that was given a place at the Museum of Art and Archaeology. This was located in the old arsenal of the Citadel, now the seat of the Parliament of Catalonia. One crucial factor that explains the final location chosen for the city’s Museum was the decision to move Casa Padellàs, stone by stone, from Carrer Mercaders to the site of Plaça del Rei in 1931, as a result of the construction work to build Via Laietana. The works to lay the building’s foundations in its new location uncovered the remains of a major part of ancient Roman Barcino, and gave rise to an ambitious archaeological intervention that spread throughout the whole of Plaça del Rei. Gradually, the Museum of History of the City began to incorporate spaces in the vicinity, such as Barcelona’s Roman temple (1956), the Roman burial path at Plaça de la Vila de Madrid (1957) and the remains of a Roman villa discovered in Plaça d’Antoni Maura (not currently open to the public). The museum project implemented in 2007, when the name Museu d’Història de Barcelona (Museum of the History of Barcelona) and the acronym MUHBA were first adopted.
The MUHBA Collections
With respect to its heritage spaces and permanent exhibitions, the Museum is currently renovating the archaeological subsoil at Plaça del Rei as part of Pla Barcino (the Barcino Plan), especially the section devoted to late Antiquity and the first Christian city. In view of the approaching 75th anniversary of the Museum’s opening (to be celebrated in 2018), research is being carried out on the institution’s history and its work in order to create an exhibition in Casa Padellàs with a highly innovative format: it will effectively summarise the city’s path and progress through history, and will help to present to the public a museum that has now spread throughout the whole of Barcelona, capital of Catalonia and European metropolis.
Did you know… The MUHBA brings together physical evidence of culture that can help explain the city’s remote and recent past past through its extensive collection of more than 35,200 objects.
One of the Museum’s tasks is to conserve a large number of objects that are linked with municipal life, such as the city’s festivals, parades and traditions, its guilds – in short, its history. In order to deal with an already massive yet growing collection, the Museu d’Història has created the Centre de Col•leccions (Collections Centre). Its task is to safeguard, conserve and organise the items it contains (which represents around 75% of the museum’s total collection) and to make it available for research and dissemination.
MUHBA 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.
Sources | MUHBA
Author | Dave Meler