The end of the 19th and the birth of the 20th centuries. Archaeology and political and cultural Catalanism.

The first years of the 20th century were marked by the transition from a period of romanticism – discoveries made by experts trained in subjects as wide-ranging as natural history, geology/mining, law, pharmacy, education, diplomacy, ecclesiastics, politics, history and industry who shared a passion for archaeological explorations – to a new period characterized by the institutionalization of research under the auspices of various public and academic bodies and corporations.


In the period from the end of the 19th century up to 1914 a series of circumstances affecting Catalan governmental administrations and cultural institutions enabled the pioneers of archaeological research in Catalonia to enjoy progressively more consolidated and reliable, as well as financially improved, forms of support.

New museums. Between the old and the new worlds!


The Provincial Antiques Museum opened its doors in 1872 in the church of Santa Àgata and the Martorell Museum – or the Natural History and Archaeological Museum – in 1882 in the Parc de la Ciutadella.


In 1902 Barcelona City Council created the Municipal Board of Museums and Fine Arts. In the same year, the Museum of Decorative Arts and Archaeology was opened in the former arsenal in the Parc de la Ciutadella; it was later enlarged with the addition of two lateral naves and from 1915 onwards was known as the Museum of Art and Archaeology.



The Museums Board and the excavations at Empúries


The First International Congress of the Catalan Language took place in 1907, the same year as the Barcelona City and Provincial Councils refounded the Museums Board. Later known as the Barcelona Museums Board, it came to play a vital role in both the development of the city’s museums and in Catalan archaeology. Thanks to this body and the zest of its president, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, two properties was purchased in Empúries, thereby allowing excavations to recommence on 23 March 1908 under the supervision of Puig i Cadafalch himself and the direct control of Emili Gandia, with regular inspections conducted by Manuel Cazurro.

Excavating the street that enters the southern gate of the Roman city of Empúries. 1908.

MAC Archive.
Emili Gandia Collection.

The setting up of the Institute of Catalan Studies


The setting up of the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC) in 1907 marked the definitive beginning of a new era for archaeological research in Catalonia (and beyond) that henceforth would be regarded as a scientific discipline like any other — and with all that that implied for the future. This new institutional framework was the starting point of a golden age for Catalan archaeology that would greatly affect, above all, the task of investigating and fomenting the use of the Catalan language.


Enric Prat de la Riba, one of the founders in 1901 of the Catalan Regional League – the first Catalan political party – and named President of the Barcelona Provincial Council in April 1907, inaugurated the Institute of Catalan Studies on 18 June of that year.


There is no question that archaeological research was essentially and inextricably linked to the foundation of this new key Catalan academic body.