The Museum of Málaga is one of 63 Spanish museums under state ownership and regional management, which in this case is devolved to the Junta de Andalucía. Close administrative collaboration and significant investment effort by the central and regional governments have provided the necessary resources for it to open it doors to the public on 12 December 2016.
As an institution, the Museum of Málaga has been well received and is appreciated by the public which sees it as its own and believes it faithfully represents its history. This is the way the Museum of Málaga's team conceived it when it drafted the Explanatory Programme: "The Museum of Málaga is part of the city's DNA".
The Museum of Málaga's inauguration in the Palacio de la Aduana is the culmination of a long-awaited project begun over 10 years ago in order to provide the museum with a stable, emblematic site, but also to propose an updated presentation of its collections, which is the result of in-depth research of its collections, with a special focus on the archaeological pieces. As a consequence, and having adopted exhibition design proposals that appeal to all types of public, the Museum of Málaga has become a national benchmark.
This advance in exhibition display management is based on an exhibition discourse that conceives the museum as a space for convergence and collaboration among the main institutions dedicated to conservation and research.
The fundamental goals of the Museum Plan and the programmes and projects developed for the museum's opening have been to define the institution's identity and mission, to refurbish the Palacio de la Aduana by combining respect for its historical and architectural values with its adaptation to the functions required by a modern museum and to analyse, restore the collections and re-order the permanent exhibition.
In other words, this museum bases its identity on the exceptional nature of its collections, its institution's historic character and the recognition and support it has in the community.
1. THE MUSEUM INSTITUTION AND ITS MISSION
Created in 1972 through the merger of the former Provincial Museum of Fine Arts (1913) and the Provincial Archaeological Museum (1945), the Museum of Málaga has been bringing together major collections representing the art and archaeology of the city and the rest of Spain since the end of the 19th century. Since then, it has occupied different sites and undergone a variety of trends in terms of display and cultural policies, while continuously guaranteeing the conservation, research and dissemination of its rich cultural heritage.
The institution, now active for more than a century, is opening a new chapter in its life at the Palacio de la Aduana, where its Art and Archaeology collections have been brought together for the first time. The collections are shown through an exhibition discourse that is highly aware of the identity the institution has built over this time. Its history, constantly aware of the most important milestones and singular stories, shapes its present and future.
Heritage, which is permanently growing and diverse, tends to include manifestations of society that need to be protected because of their interest or value. Following the same trend, museums approach their collections from broader, more interdisciplinary perspectives than the traditional archaeological and artistic views. At the same time, the focus is put on what heritage can contribute to knowledge and the way it relates with modern society.
The Museum of Málaga incorporates these new values in both the discourse it offers and the presentation of its collections. The museum has embarked on a new life whose mission is to become a point of reference in the region and for heritage in Spain while at the same time projecting a brand image in line with the new demands of historical heritage management that makes it an outstanding cultural offering in constant dialogue with the network of institutions associated with the heritage of Málaga, Andalusia and the country as a whole.
2. THE MUSEUM'S HISTORICAL SITES
The Provincial Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1916 under Royal Decree 24 July 1913. After having gone through various changes in administrative sites, at the end of the 1950s it settled in the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista on Calle San Agustín. A decade earlier the decision had been made to turn down the new Palacio de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos –traditionally known as the Casa de la Cultura-, where the Roman theatre of Málaga was discovered during building works. Having been reformed by the architect E. Atencia Molina as a museum, the Buenavista building fulfilled this function until 1997, when the Junta de Andalucía and the Picasso family chose the property to house the Picasso Museum, which opened in 2004.
The Provincial Archaeological Museum of Málaga was created in 1947 having had the opportunity of occupying a suitable site in the recently restored Alcazaba and thanks to the generosity of private donations by archaeologists and renowned collectors such as M. Rodríguez de Berlanga, Juan Tembury, Narciso Díaz de Escobar and the Málaga Science Society. The museum was home to key archaeological pieces, for the most part medieval collections of ceramics. It similarly also held pieces from excavations at the Alcazaba itself which found their way into the museum from the moment the works started. It remained at this site until 1997, when the City Council of Málaga, which owned the landmark, demanded responsibility for it and its management.
1984 is a key date in the administrative history of the museum. It was when management was devolved to the Junta de Andalucía in the framework of the new Statute of Autonomy of Andalusia. Among other advances, regional management resulted in the increase in new works of art, especially in terms of the archaeological collections from the excavations supervised by the regional government over these last 30 years.
3. LA ADUANA PALACE AND THE CITIZEN MOBILISATION
The Museum of Málaga's new seat, the Palacio de la Aduana (translated as the Customs House), came into being in the wake of the trading boom experienced in Málaga in the late 18th century, and on the back of the Decree of Free Trade in 1778, which authorised the city's port to trade with America. It was a high point in the history of Málaga that would also create the environment for the museum's collection to develop. Both the building and collections therefore originated in the same context and came together after many years through a shared history: the 19th century.
This building is the clearest expression of Neoclassicism in Málaga. Its location, proportions and architectural language make it a landmark in the urban landscape. The Aduana was designed in 1787 given the city's intense maritime activity. Charles III authorised its construction in the framework of the new policy to promote economic activity in Spain. The architect was Manuel Martín Rodríguez, nephew and student of Ventura Rodríguez, who was responsible for the classicist aesthetics of the time. The original project was directly inspired by Sabatini's drawings for the Customs House in Madrid. P. Nolasco Ventura later finished the work, with minor modifications to the original plans. Construction began in 1791, although a series of setbacks delayed its completion until 1829. The building was conceived for administrative purposes. The construction therefore projects the sobriety and formality of the official architecture of the day.
In the mid-19th century, the decoration of the building’s exterior and interior were overhauled to enhance it for Queen Isabel II's visit to the city. To mark the visit of Alfonso XII in 1877 the balustrade was crowned with terracotta busts, still in place today following its recent restoration. In 1922 the palace suffered a serious fire on the floor housing the civil servants' quarters; it resulted in the death of 28 people. Because of the fire, the building lost its original roof and upper floor.
In the 1980s, the building was refurbished as the seat of the Civil Governor (later the Government's Provincial Office). In 1997, the Ministry of Culture renovated the garret in order to install a storage area for the Fine Arts section which had been moved out of the Palacio de Buenavista; it also restored part of the ground floor for the museum's exhibitions.
During the search for a new seat for the Museum of Málaga, public action led to a movement supporting the Palacio de la Aduana as the site.
In 1997, over 50 representatives from groups in Málaga, such as community and professional associations, foundations and unions joined a movement led by the "La Aduana para Málaga" platform. They demanded that the Palacio de la Aduana be used as a museum and for it to be remodelled to house the Museum of Málaga's Archaeology and Fine Arts departments.
On 12 December 1997, the platform held its first demonstration, which was attended by over 6,000 city residents. Further demonstrations were held in 1998, while 45,000 signatures were submitted asking for the Aduana's to be used as a museum. In 2001, over 10,000 locals took to the streets again.
In April 2005, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced that he would honour their request to make the palace the new seat of the Museum of Málaga. After lengthy negotiations between the different authorities involved, the building was ceded to the Ministry of Culture in 2005. Work on renovating the building for use as the Museum of Málaga then began, as a joint and shared project between the state and regional authorities.
4. THE NEW MUSEUM OF MÁLAGA
The Palacio de la Aduana, the preferred choice of most of the public, fully satisfied the needs of the new museum. The emblematic image of the space, its marked heritage value and connections with the city's residents also gave the museum an added value: the recovery of a large building for cultural and public use.
Because the Palacio de la Aduana was used as an administrative building its spaces were broken up into small office units, which prevented some of its most attractive aspects and its distinguished architecture from being seen. The project undertaken recovered the height of its original spaces and brings back all their dignity.
This project has also been approached from the viewpoint of sustainable planning to strike a balance between the needs to protect cultural heritage and the visitor forecasts to be handled.
The Refurbishment Project also put a special focus on creating suitable conditions for conservation by improving the state of building, in both the spaces and their layout to benefit the display or storage of the collections. The result is a first-class infrastructure and a sustainable building.
Designed by a team consisting of Fernando Pardo, Bernardo García Tapia and Ángel Pérez Mora, the project is noteworthy because of its respect for the values of the historic building, while at the same time incorporating a contemporary architectural language, especially in the design of the roof, which reconstructs the original image of the building with a two-sided roof. It is similar in volume to the one lost in 1922, but executed in a contemporary style. In this way, the historic status of the building is respected and enhanced and at the same facilitates the institution's installation in the landmark, by providing a suitable spatial layout and a logical arrangement of the access points.
As the largest state museum in Andalusia with a constructed area of 18,402 m², this new seat meets the needs for exhibitions and at the same time is prepared to offer support tools for educators and researchers and to house laboratories, workshops, an auditorium and library in the facilities. This all makes the Palacio de Aduana a place to meet and to enjoy culture.
Its strategic location in the heart of the city and on the cultural route that comprises emblematic places such as the Alcazaba, Cathedral and Roman theatre make the building with its impressive architectural and historical features a prime location for the museum.
Although it widely recognised as the image of the city since its construction in the early 19th century, another attraction is that the building is little known given the past uses. The building's new use as the Museum of Málaga provides the public with the unique opportunity to visit its impressive interior which people have always been enormously curious to see, as well as the fact that it creates a feeling of collective identity.
It is rare for the circumstances to arise when a a building can be renovated as a museum in order to exhibit a major collection from the same period as when it was built. The Museum of Málaga is therefore witness to the meeting of the 19th-century city and the Aduana palace, which was built at the same time. As a result, in this case, the relationship between the container and content is both close and appropriate.
THE NEW PERMANENT COLLECTION
1. EXHIBITION DISCOURSE AND DESIGN
The Museum of Málaga describes the collections which have been deposited over time at this historic institution and which make it possible to learn about and reflect on many moments in the history of Málaga and the province. It therefore stands apart from established trends in similar museums in that the collections are the centrepiece of the exhibition discourse, with their origin and wanderings until the moment that each work is presented to visitors and shows its historic and artistic merits. The Museum of Málaga does not have a linear history and it does not attempt to show gaps in history with other pieces. Instead, it explains the reason for these absences in certain periods in order to account for the unique history of the territory of Málaga.
The museum's archaeological collections feature items of different provenance, although most have their origins in sites located in the province of Málaga due to the work undertaken by the Junta de Andalucía over the last few years. Since 1996 the storage of the collections adds exceptional value to the museum in fostering the dissemination of Málaga's heritage, which is now presented in this seat where it will be exhibited in many cases for the first time with the insight provided by recent research. The increased heritage is displayed attractively so as to make it easier for all types of public to access.