Seville's Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions was founded in 1972. It is a state-owned institution run by the Regional Ministry of Culture of Andalusia. It was set up in the Mudéjar Pavilion in the Plaza de América after the building was transferred from the State to Seville City Council, initially in part and then in full.
The purpose of the museum can be summarised as a cultural public service dedicated to showing visitors the wealth and variety of the ethnography of the region to which it belongs. This refers to objects and tools that form part of our traditional culture, as well as the customs, knowledge and lifestyles in general, to which these objects and tools belong. In our specific case, our goal is to teach visitors to the museum that, rather than an intangible asset, the culture of a people is a dynamic succession of lifestyles that undergo slow or rapid transformation, depending on either fundamental structures of the social fabric or more superficial ways that are subject to change quickly, such as fashion or entertainment.
But perhaps the most carefully designed and noteworthy message that visitors may expect from this kind of museum is to identify with their own culture while not disparaging other cultures. Respect for cultural diversity is rooted in the consideration of cultural differences. Since the last century, ethnographical and anthropological museums have contributed to promoting this idea among the general public, by resisting dangerous clichés stemming from racial, linguistic and economic differences.
The building dates back to 1914 and is part of a set of three that form the Plaza de América which was designed by Seville architect Aníbal González for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville. Its internal structure is perfectly symmetrical with the axis at the mid-point of the façade. It is laid out in large rooms which makes it an ideal building for museum exhibitions.
As with this architect's many other buildings in the city, the Pavilion is based on the regionalist architecture movement and attempts to recover certain styles and materials that were typical of the periods considered as the city's heydays. One of these is the neo-Mudéjar style which is characterised by the fusion of eastern elements (Mozarab, Caliphal, Nasrid and Almohad) with other European styles.
Since it was built, the building had many different uses until, on 23 March 1972, the Ministry of Education and Science published the Decree for the Creation of the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, Seville, which was set up as a department of the Museum of Fine Arts. This decree established that the museum would be housed in the Mudéjar Pavilion. That same year, José Galnares Sagastizábal adapted the building for use as a museum. It opened to the public on 4 March 1973.
In a plenary meeting on 26 March 1980, the City Council adopted the transfer of use agreement of the entire building, with the Ministry's commitment to fit out the building. The transfer would be for an undefined period as long as the Pavilion was used as the headquarters of the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions. In February of the following year, the Ministry commissioned Fernando Villanueva Sandino to prepare the Restoration and Conservation Works Project for the Museum. The re-opening of the museum in 1984 coincided with the transfer of museum management from the State to the Autonomous Community of Andalusia and the signing of the management agreement on 18 October 1984.