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History of the Museu de Menorca

Museo Municipal de Mahón

On 4th November 1889 the Museo Municipal de Mahón opened its doors to the public, thanks to Joan Seguí Rodriguez’s initiative, and the donations received by a number of individuals. It was located in the Principal de Guardia’s building, opposite the Town Hall and was inaugurated under the name Museo de Arqueología e Historia Natural (Archaeology and Natural History Museum). It was the predecessor to the current Museu de Menorca.

The Centre’s curator, Pere Monjo i Monjo, donated its first pieces which were fragments of the Roman sepultures found at the Plaça del Príncep square in Maó. Pere Riudavets, Emilio Linares and Diego Monjo, among others, contributed to the creation of the Museum’s collections donating fossils, whale bones, archaeological excavation finds and art.

In 1890, the Museum’s founder, Joan Seguí Rodríguez, passed away and the Town Hall offered the role of curator to the Museum’s collections to High School of Maó teacher’s assembly. 

In 1898 Francesc Hernàndez Sanz, teacher at the High School of Maó, who consolidated the collection making important contributions to the promotion of the patrimony, is appointed curator.

In 1906 the Town Hall decides to deposit the collection of the Municipal museum with the Ateneu de Maó cultural and scientific association.

Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes

On 23rd November 1944 the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes was created. The same year, Maó Town Hall handed over the palace called Can Mercadal and building work started in order to adapt it to house the Museum and Public Library.

The Director of the Public Library, Felix Durán, was also named director of the new Centre and its artefacts until 1945; he was succeeded by Felix Merino Sánchez, who remained in the role until 1951. On 18th November 1948, the new headquarters of Can Mercadal were opened.

At their new location, the collection grew considerably, as to the Municipal’s museum collection they also added the artefacts from the Ateneu de Maó, the Excavations Commission, the Monuments Subcommission and other goods from private collections. One of the first deposits was made by the family of the archaeologist Antoni Vives Escudero in 1946.

In 1953 the management is taken on by Maria Lluïsa Serra Belabre, archaeologist, historian and archivist, who carried out the role until her death in 1967. During this time the collections continued to grow and a significant task of documenting and distributing the Museum’s collection was carried out via the promotion of artists and the organisation of temporary exhibitions. Maria Lluïsa Serra increased the Museum’s art collection through purchasing pieces of art and the donations made by the Menorcan painters such as Sansuguet and a number of other artists from the Grup Menorca.

Also at this time, the Museum took in the archaeological material recovered from the important excavations that were being carried out on Menorca: the navetes of Es Tudons and Rafal Rubí, the village at Talatí de Dalt or the basilicas of Fornàs de Torelló and from the Illa del Rei, amongst others.

Museu de Menorca

In 1974, the archaeologist from Mallorca, Lluís Plantalamor Massanet, took over the management of the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes, which he did until 2015.

In 1975 the Museu de Menorca, already with this as its official name, joined the National Board of Trustees for Museums.

A period of changes began along with the growth of the collections characterised by:

1- Moving the Sant Francesc Convent from the current Museu’s headquarters. Can Mercadal’s building had both infrastructure and space problems and because of this, the Town Hall decided to handover the aforementioned convent to the State in order to install the Museu.

In 1980 the rehabilitation of the building began and in 1984 the Govern of the Balearic Islands took over the management of the Museu. In 1986 a part of the rehabilitated building was opened.

In 1995 the temporary rooms were opened to the public and on the 7th April 1998, the permanent rooms were also opened meaning that the Museu’s headquarters were fully functional.

The Museu’s building covers 5,900 m2, of which 2,500 m2 are destined to the public and are situated around the square Baroque cloister built in the second half of the 17th century – beginning of the 18th century. On two floors of the building one finds a chronological tour of Menorca’s history. The Centre also opened a restoration workshop, a library and a didactic office.

2- The encouragement and support of the archaeological research and excavations from which the Museu’s collection is built.

The collaboration with the universities of Boston, Cagliari, the Balearic Islands and the participation of numerous archaeologists that intervened in the work campaigns increased the collections with interesting materials from Menorca’s ancient history: the villages of the Torre d’en Galmés, Torralba d’en Salort, So na Caçana, the Roman city of Sanitja, the necropolis of Calescoves, the hypogeum of Trebalúger and Toraixa, are just a small part of the goods that entered the Museu during this period.

In addition, the pieces that had been discovered at the villages of Trepucó and Sa Torreta de Tramuntana by the British archaeologist Margaret Murray in the 30’s and were in Cambridge, were recovered

In Maó, due to the interventions being carried out in the Old Town, a part of the Roman and Medieval parts of the city was documented. At Es Castell, the excavation of the old village of Sa Raval recovered artefacts from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Other important entries came from the restoration works being carried out at the Sant Francesc cloister: 17th and 18th century ceramics and polychrome tiles from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today the excavation works are still going on at the two Talaiots of Cornia, which have provided the Museum with a significant ensemble of goods.

3- The increase of the Centre’s artistic and ethnologic collections. During this period, the Museu’s acquisitions policy prioritised the purchase and donations of pieces which fell into the following criteria: pieces of Menorcan origin or pieces vital to the completion of the Museu’s discourse.

In the 90’s the first relevant donations were made of paintings, ceramics, clothes, glass, etc. which have all been essential in completing the Museu’s discourse. Amongst which, it is worth highlighting the “Vives Campomar” and “Serra Belabre” collections.

From the 90’s onwards and in the first decade of the 21st century de deposits and donations of ethnologic, artistic and industrial material, increased. Also worth highlighting are the 18th and 19th century cartography collection, paintings by Menorcan artists and objects of industrial origins such as the group of bags made of silver mesh produced in the islands factories.

From 1st of September 2011, the Consell Insular of Menorca manages the Museu. Currently there are building works taking place and the Museum’s new project is being developed in order to make the Museu de Menorca an infrastructure that can respond to the needs of the 21st century. 

Bibliography

Serra Belabre, M. L. (1963): Breve guía del Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes de Mahón. Panorama Balear, núm. 83, Maó.

Serra Belabre, M. L. (1967): La Casa de la Cultura de Mahón. Escuela Tipográfica Provincial. Palma de Mallorca.

Andreu Adame, Cristina (2015). “Origen i formació de les col·leccions del Museu de Menorca” en  Miscel·lània d’estudis en homenatge a Lluís Plantalamor Massanet. Palma: Govern de les Illes Balears. p. 45-57.

 

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