The Catalan History Museum is located in the Palau del Mar, a huge warehouse dating from the late 19th century. Many similar buildings stood alongside it before this flank of the port was re-developed for the 1992 Olympic Games, creating the marina and recreational area that now surrounds it.
The museum, divided into eight sections, aims to provide a stroll through history, and that pretty much sums up what it does. It's a sometimes exhausting, highly didactic tour of the country. "Roots," "Birth of a Nation," and "Our Sea" look at Catalonia's ancient ancestors, the flourishing Romanesque period, and the Catalan-Aragonese sea trade. "On the Periphery of an Empire," "Bases of the Revolution," and "Steam and Nation" study Catalonia's decline under the Habsburg rule and subsequent economic and cultural recovery in the industrial age. Finally, "The Electric Years" (which is by far one of the more entertaining parts of the exhibit) and "Defeat and Recovery" deal with the 20th century, the Spanish Civil War, Catalonia during Franco's dictatorship, and the first democratic elections after his death.
It's a lot of area to cover and the museum uses a mixture of multimedia, re-creations, models, and other interactive devices as their medium, most of the time with effective results. Because all the accompanying explanations are in Catalan, you are provided with a translation (in book form) at the entrance.
The temporary exhibitions on the ground floor are less weighty, and have included some excellent shows on the Mediterranean cultures, and the relationship between the famed poet Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí.
After all this you may need a break. The museum's cafe offers great food and an excellent view of the port; also on the port side is a handful of outdoor seafood restaurants.
- © Frommer's 2013
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