MADRID – Madrid’s National Archeological Museum opened its doors to the public on Wednesday with an extraordinary temporary exhibition – “The Power of the past, 150 years of archeology in Spain,” showcasing 150 of Spain’s top archeological treasures in a homage to the history and evolution of Spanish archeology.
The Museo de Arqueologia Nacional (MAN) traces how Spain’s past was unearthed, from the 19th century’s ruling elites, antiquarians and hobby collectors to the chaotic, almost accidental accumulation of old objects.
“All of this will be done through 150 objects or exhibits from 68 collaborating museums, true icons of the past which reflect an overview of how we built a vision of our past through archeology: a material history of Spain’s past,” the museum said in a statement.
The coming of age of archeology as a scientific discipline that seeks and attempts to explain the past through glimpses of a long-gone everyday life will be put on view.
“When I was offered to curate an exhibition featuring 150 objects showcasing 150 years of Spanish archeology I knew it was a difficult challenge,” the exhibition’s curator, Gonzalo Ruiz Zapatero, Professor of Prehistory at Madrid’s Complutense University, told EFE on Tuesday at a pre-inaugural media presentation.
Despite the challenge, Ruiz embarked on his quest to show “all types” of objects: human fossils, artworks, humble daily life artifacts, side by side with objects fit for emperors.
The curator said the exhibition included an additional challenge, it was not only bringing together a diversity of objects but also creating a narrative.
“This physical memory of the past should serve to enable the visitors to become empowered by the knowledge of their own history,” Ruiz Zapatero said.
His objective was to – embed – these objects within the story telling how Spanish archeology evolved, a concept intimately entwined with the origins of the archaeological discipline and the Museum itself.
Spain’s Archeological Museum came into existence in March 21, 1867, at the same time as a network of smaller provincial museums.
Up to 68 of these provincial museums have now played a crucial part in this project by temporarily loaning some of their best artifacts.
Ruiz Zapatero thanked them all for their generosity.
The exhibition is divided into three main sections: the pioneering archeologists of the second half of 19th century that sought inspiration in the antiquarian traditions (1867-1912), the consolidation of archeology as a stand-alone discipline (1912-1960) and its contemporary rise as a science (1960-present).
“This is an activity boasting great strength and significance,” said Andres Carretero Perez, director of the Madrid’s National Archeological Museum, adding that the exhibition was aimed at the general public, a departure from the more academic activities it has organized to celebrate its century and a half of existence.
In addition, between 2006-2014, the museum was completely renovated and currently boasts state-of-the-art facilities.