Around 1918, the idea for a museum that could explain Catalan maritime history while showing the current reality of the merchant marine appeared. Some were even bold enough to suggest that the ideal space for a maritime museum in Barcelona would be the Drassanes Reials, which at the time were still an artillery arsenal.
It just so happened that the Nautical School of Barcelona, founded in 1769, had a collection of old models and instruments in what it called the Museu o Gabinet Naval. In old books and documents, no longer useful for teaching, part of the memory of the maritime past of the country had been preserved. When construction began on the School’s current building in 1929, the Nautical Institute of the Mediterranean was created, an institution meant to be a sort of University of the Sea that included the little museum and a specialized library.
THE CREATION OF THE MUSEUM
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Government of Catalonia confiscated the Drassanes Reials in an attempt to protect the country’s heritage. On October 23, 1936, the Maritime Museum of Catalonia was created by decree, and the collections of the Nautical Institute of the Mediterranean were moved there. From then until 1939, the Museum sought to protect everything that was endangered by the ongoing war and revolution. With the end of the war, the change in regime and the elimination of the Government of Catalonia, the Museum changed course, reopening its doors on January 18, 1941 as the Maritime Museum of Barcelona.
THE MUSEUM CURRENTLY
From 1941 to 1993 under the administration of the Provincial Council of Barcelona, the Museum continued to grow, becoming one of the best maritime museums in the world. Limited renovations were made to the building, and different permanent exhibits were created according to the standards of most museums at the time. In 1993, the Museum’s management model was changed, with the Consortium of the Drassanes Reials and the Maritime Museum of Barcelona being created on February 1st. This consortium was made up of the three entities tied to the Museum: the Barcelona Provincial Council, the Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Port Authority.
At the end of 2009, a great opportunity arose with the complete restoration of the Drassanes Reials, a massive project that required the disassembly of the Museum and many of its services without ever closing it to the public. Work finished in February 2013, and since then the MMB has been working on completing its Museum project.