The Archaeological Museum of Granada was one of the first to be set up in Spain, together with those in Barcelona and Valladolid, inspired in the National Archaeological Museum, set up in 1867. Between 1842 and 1879, it did not have the function of a museum but was an Antiques Office under the Monuments Commission in Granada, and run by the eminent painter Manuel Gómez-Moreno González, who was also in charge of collecting the first remains found in Atarfe belonging to the former emirate-caliphate city of Medina Elvira (8th-11th century) and others from various periods which were donated to the Commission.
The efforts by the Monuments Commission and the City Council resulted in the setting up of the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Granada in 1879, forming its first collection with the objects from the Monuments Commission, with two sections, Archaeology and Fine Arts. Its first director was Francisco Góngora del Carpio (1879-1919), son of the famous archaeologist Francisco de Góngora y Martínez. From this date until the middle of the 20th century, it would share premises with the Monuments Commission, or the Academy of Nª Sª de las Angustias, and would undertake a large number of moves in various buildings in the city such as the Convento de Santa Cruz la Real, some spaces on the ground floor under the Town Council, and a building on Calle Arandas, none of which were appropriate as a museum
In 1917, the Casa de Castril was purchased, from the heirs of the famous Arabist, Leopoldo Eguilaz y Yanguas, for the permanent location of the Museum. The house is located in the Carrera del Darro, in the former Arab area of Ajsaris, a building of the nobility in Granada from the 16th century, as can be seen in its buildings incorporating the coat of arms. The Casa de Castril is one of the best Renaissance palaces in Granada and belonged to the family of Hernando de Zafra, secretary to the Catholic Monarchs, who actively participated in the conquest of Granada and in its surrender treaty . The date of its construction (1539) is engraved on the upper part of the facade. This work has been attributed to Sebastián de Alcántara, one of the most prominent followers of Diego de Siloe.
The family coat of arms with the Comares de la Alhambra tower also appears on the facade, in which we can clearly appreciate the wooden latticework in the main windows of the drawing room just as they were in their time, which the Alhambra Board has recently installed following very adequate criteria . A beautiful corner window in the upper part contains the motto "Esperándola del Cielo" (Waiting for her from Heaven), which has inspired various Romantic legends.
This stately home consists of a hallway with staircase and large windows of a clear Renaissance tradition which lead onto the central patio with open rooms to the upper and lower galleries, and a beautiful garden to the back. It underwent a radical transformation in order to install the museum there. From 1917 to 1941 the architect Fernando Wilhelmi Manzano carried out a large structural reform, respecting the most prominent constructive elements, such as the staircase in the hallway, the galleries in the patio or some wooden structures in the ceiling of the rooms. In addition, to the north of the garden, he added a two-storey building. The Museum of Fine Arts which was located in the new building to the north of the garden, was moved to the palacio de Carlos V in 1946. Francisco Prieto-Moreno Pardo would be the architect who would carry out the subsequent reforms from 1955 to 1974. In 1962, the house of the painter, Rafael Latorre was purchased; this building is located beside the Casa de Castril and would be used to expand the museum space.
During this long period, its directors were Joaquín Villalba Bru (1919-1922), and figures of such relevance in the cultural and university life in Granada as Antonio Gallego Burín (1922-1931) and Joaquina Egüaras Ibáñez (1931-1967).
While Angela Mendoza Egüaras was director (1967-1988), its current composition was implemented, after the 1970 refurbishment, taking in Prehistory to the end of the Middle Ages. In 1980, the Ethnological Section was created but unfortunately was never developed, although there are wonderful glass collections from Castril and ceramics typical of Granada from Fajalauza.
In 1984, the Junta de Andalucía assumed its responsibilities with regard to culture and with these, the Museum. Thus began a long period of renovation and modernisation. Currently, the museum is undergoing a global restructuring process in which the basic axis are an exhibition space with few pieces and new didactics, applying modern multimedia means. This new exhibition theme will provide an understanding of historic stages and objects to visitors of any cultural level, but focussing in particular the school-going stage.