As a centre under the authority of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Untzi Museoa-Naval Museum of San Sebastian opened its doors to the public on May 23, 1991 with a pre-defined objective: to work to safeguard, research and disseminate Basque heritage and maritime history.
The building in which these activities were to be carried out was a unique building. Built in the middle of the 18th century as the "Maritime Consul's tower house", it was intended for controlling movement in the port, collecting taxes and maintaining the docks. Its powers also included maritime assistance and keeping order in the port. For an undetermined period of time it was also used as a school for maritime studies.
As the Museum has been set up, the two main floors of the property were used for a permanent exhibition. A summarised view of the Basque Country's relationship with the sea was offered to the public, highlighting aspects relating to shipbuilding. The top floor was given over to a library, archive, educational workshops and temporary exhibitions.
In 2007, 15 years after the museum opened, the informational objectives were reformulated and the permanent exhibition was dismantled. The space that it occupied was then earmarked for long-term temporary exhibitions. The top floor area still has a multi-purpose use: educational workshops, smaller exhibitions, projections, conferences, etc.
Since its opening, there have been 33 temporary exhibitions at the museum. While trying to overcome the limitations of space and equipment, this centre has sought, at all times, to provide exhibitions of quality that serve to publicise relevant or little-known aspects of the maritime history and culture of the Basque Country.
In-house exhibitions organised at the Museum have been as follows:
Exhibitions organised in collaboration with other centres and bodies:
A large number of the exhibitions organised by the museum went on tour through different towns along the Basque coast.
Temporary exhibitions usually involve publishing books or leaflets which, in addition to expanding their informational reach, contribute to the knowledge of the subject matter. It should also be noted that many of the exhibitions have enriched the collections of the museum, since the location of materials to be exhibited often provides an opportunity to obtain objects and documents of historical interest, by way of purchase or donation.
The Naval Museum has an Education Service that caters to a wide audience (the formal education system, groups with special needs, the general public) through the prior preparation of tours, with educational notebooks and "kits". Activities aimed at the formal education system take school curricula and the real needs of the various centres into consideration.
Since its inception, the museum has paid special attention to people with physical and mental disabilities and various groups affected by social exclusion, annually organising an educational activity adapted to the characteristics of the various groups. In 1991, the Museum began working with entities such as ATZEGI (Guipuzkoan association for people with intellectual disabilities), ONCE, Martutene Prison, Proyecto Hombre, San Sebastian Mental Health Centre. This type of activity continued later with the collaboration of Cáritas, Sortu, Txertatu, Educadores de Calle de Gipuzkoa, etc.
The Education Service has had a special impact on areas related to history and heritage, but it has also taken an interest in the mythical and literary sphere of maritime culture through the participative staging of different types of narratives. It has also tried to publicise the current situation regarding maritime industries and the environmental problems related to the sea and rivers.
Education for peace has also been part of the centre's activities. This was the case in the 1998 programme, in collaboration with Gesto por la Paz de Euskal Herria (Gesture for Peace in the Basque Country), for the exhibition "Euzkadiko Gudontzidia. La Marina de Guerra Auxiliar de Euzkadi, 1936-39" (The Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country, 1936-39). It came to be the first experience of this kind organised in a Basque Museum .
In addition to guided tours of the exhibitions, the Education Service has developed a total of 25 educational programmes over the years. These include the following:
The museum does not limit its activity to the site where it is located. Its educational programmes include three cultural itineraries that make the museum an interpretation centre of local heritage:
Participation, promotion of creativity, knowledge transfer and emotions are the concepts-guidelines used in designing educational programs.
Research is one of the pillars of the activity of the centre. Given the deficiencies that could be seen at the start of the 90s in historical, anthropological and heritage research material related to the maritime world, the publication Itsas Memoria. Revista de Estudios Marítimos del País Vasco (Journal of Maritime Studies in the Basque Country) was launched, which is published every two years. The magazine has three distinct sections: 1) a widely developed monographic topic, 2) studies on the museum's collections and 3) various research studies.
Seven issues of Itsas Memoria have been published, focusing respectively on the following topics:
No. 1) Situation of the issue of maritime studies.
No. 2) Shipbuilding
No. 3) Fishing
No. 4) Transport and maritime trade
No. 5) Maritime war, privateering and piracy
No. 6) Maritime and river heritage
No. 7) Port history
In these seven issues, Itsas Memoria has published 237 articles, written by 176 specialists, for the most part attached to the academic world. Although merely quantitative, we believe that these data say a lot about the activity promoted by the Naval Museum in the field of research and generation of knowledge. The contents of these volumes can be accessed via the internet on the museum website. Itsas Memoria is a publication that is highly valued by maritime history and culture specialists and marks a before and after in the area of Basque Studies in the field.
Issue no. 8 of Itsas Memoria will be published shortly. This new issue, whose monographic theme will cover intangible heritage - "Historia, patrimonio y fuentes orales" (History, heritage and oral sources) - will include 36 research articles on maritime history, anthropology, a collection of oral testimonies, etc.
Moreover, they have taken publications linked to temporary exhibitions into account. For the most part, it deals with works split between research and dissemination, characterised by the wealth of graphic aids that they offer (the result of specific research work). These include the following:
The museum has also published some works of a purely informational nature. These are some examples:
In addition to the journal Itsas Memoria and the editorial production linked to temporary exhibitions, the Untzi Museoa website offers the "Digital Publications" section, where informative texts on a variety of subjects, all related to Basque maritime history, are publicised.
Looking at the picture of Guipuzkoan museums in recent decades, it could be said that one of the hallmarks of the Naval Museum has been the appreciable volume and quality of its editorial production. In 2012, the museum received the "Juan de Yciar Editorial Quality Award" for publishing the book
Concern for safeguarding relevant tangible and intangible cultural elements linked to the sea occupies a prominent place on the work horizon of the Naval Museum.
Starting almost from scratch, the collections, which are always open to the inclusion of all kinds of significant materials, have grown over the years.
Today, the museum has a collection of more than 7,000 pieces, consisting of prints, paintings, photographs, postcards, posters, marine charts, maps, navigation instruments, boats, ethnographic objects, elements of industrial heritage, underwater archaeology, etc.
The museum's specialist library has 5,045 books and the archive has about 4,000 documents between printed matter and manuscripts.
The recovery and protection of boats has certainly been one of the fields of intervention that has required more effort. Interestingly, although it is obvious that boats are an integral part of maritime heritage, there was almost no interest in this regard in Gipuzkoa and Biscay in the early nineties.
The first action of note in this area was the protection of the Jaizkibel, a Pasajes Port Authority dredger built in the Euskalduna shipyard in Bilbao in 1933-34. In 1991 - with the support of the Basque Association of Industrial Heritage - its scrapping was avoided and two years later the Basque Government declared it an Asset of Cultural Interest in the Monument category .
Also in 1991, the museum launched a recovery project for vessels, which, due to their construction and typological features, deserved to be preserved.
Up till now, the museum has collected 40 mostly small and medium sized vessels, directly related to fishing activities, although they include river, port and recreational vessels.
Among those collected, it is worth mentioning the following:
- Gurutze Santua, a coastal fishing rowing boat. 1925.
- San Vicente, a surface fishing vessel. 1933.
- María Rosario, a coastal fishing rowing boat. 1946.
- Trinido, a surface fishing vessel. 1947.
- Antxeta, a coastal fishing and recreational rowing boat. 1947.
- Germancho, a coastal fishing motorboat. 1950.
- Juan Maria, a hake fishing vessel. 1965.
- Calderon, a pilot boat from Pasajes. 1939.
- Astilleros Luzuriaga, a multi-purpose motorboat. 1952.
- A sports rowing boat from the Orio rowing club. 1963-64.
Undoubtedly the most notable case concerns the Mendieta shipyard in Lekeitio. The steps taken in 2008 by various public and private entities, with the active collaboration of the team that manages the museum, resulted in the Basque Government rating the shipyard an Asset of Interest in the Monument category. In 2009-10, actions were also taken to protect the Mutiozabal shipyard in Orio; recently, the collaboration agreement between Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa and the Orio council was unveiled for its restoration and preservation.
Since 1998, the museum has promoted a substantial number of research papers in the field of intangible heritage. Most of them have been published in Itsas Memoria. Revista de Estudios Marítimos del País Vasco (Journal on Maritime Studies in the Basque Country).
Tuesday to Saturday:
10:00 - 14:00 and 16:00 - 19:00
Sundays and public holidays:
11:00 - 14:00
16.00 - 19.00 (from 15th of june to 15th of september)
December 24 and 31:
10:00 - 14:00
Closed on Mondays. Closed January 1, 6 and 20, and December 25.
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