As with most Spanish museums, the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba underwent a long journey before it found its current site in the historic centre of Córdoba, now designated a World Heritage Site.
In 1844 the archaeological artefacts resulting from the state confiscation of Córdoba¿s convents and monasteries were assembled and deposited at the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts, forming the Antiquities Collection, subsequently renamed the Antiquities Section. Over the years, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the collection of archaeological artefacts with it, has moved several times. Its first home was the Colegio de la Asunción; in 1849 it moved to the Provincial Council; and in 1861 it took up residence in the Hospital de la Caridad.
The Provincial Archaeological Museum of Córdoba was eventually founded in 1868 and, despite being classed as an independent museum, it shared its premises for several years with the Museum of Fine Arts. The two collections finally went their separate ways in 1920, when the Archaeological Museum moved to the Plaza de San Juan. After a short time, it moved from here to the Mudéjar house in Calle Velázquez Bosco (now known as Calle Samuel de los Santos).
During this period of transition from 1921 to 1959, which ended with its move to the definitive site, the museum was managed by Joaquín María de Navascués, Fernando Valls-Taberner and Blas Taracena (during the Civil War) and Samuel de los Santos. The long, productive period under Samuel de los Santos was marked by the move to the new headquarters, great advances in research, participation in numerous excavations and the production of a new inventory and catalogue.
Under the direction of Ana María Vicent Zaragoza from 1959 to 1987, the museum moved to its present site at the Palacio de los Páez de Castillejo, increased its collection considerably, created an urban archaeology research service and an excellent library specialising in archaeology, and founded the scientific journal Corduba Archaeologica. The institution became one of the most complete archaeological museums in Spain, and in 1962 both the building and the collections were designated a Historic-Artistic Monument.
The Palacio de los Páez de Castillejo continues to house the museum to this day, although for a number of years it had needed to upgrade its internal facilities, public spaces and galleries to the standards required by an institution of such importance, in line with modern thinking on museum studies. The Museological Programme drawn up in 1992 and partly amended in 1998 laid down the conditions governing the museum¿s expansion.
At the same time, archaeological studies on the adjoining sites were launched, providing the museum with its own archaeological site at which to document important structures from the Roman period, such as the old theatre of Colonia Patricia Corduba, as well as late-Roman craft workshops and Andalusí houses from the Middle Ages, which have historical links to the medieval remains inside the palace and the large Renaissance building by Hernán Ruiz II.
In 1998 an international ideas competition was launched to build a museum extension and the contract was awarded to the archaeological and engineering team IDOM.
The extension is housed in a modern building and opened on 31 January 2011. Adjacent to the historic edifice, it complements the spaces of the former site and provides the museum with new galleries and areas for research, conservation and study. a specialist library, a research room, restoration workshops for the collections, and administrative areas.
The extension has opened with an exhibition entitled Córdoba: A Meeting of Cultures, which offers visitors a tour of the most important pieces from the museum¿s outstanding collection. The selected items reflect the composition of the museum collections, with pieces that span Prehistory to the Late Middle Ages and artefacts from the founding collections as well as recent acquisitions. The Archaeological Museum of Córdoba also boasts a very special exhibit: the archaeological site of the city¿s Roman theatre. Uncovered in the building¿s grounds, this has been restored and converted into a museum piece and is now open to visitors on the basement level.
Córdoba, a Meeting of Cultures is a temporary exhibition that will run for the duration of the second phase of the works, consisting of the renovation of the architecture and museum design of the permanent exhibition site. These works affect the Palacio of Jerónimo Páez and the archaeological remains in the north grounds, where important traces of Córdoba¿s urban planning reform of the late 1st century BC are preserved.