Euskal Itsas Museoa

Since 1991

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.

Temporary exhibitions

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:

  • "Antonio de Gaztañeta (1656-1728)". 1992. An exhibition dedicated to the life and work of the great Gipuzkoan shipbuilder.
  • "Itsasoaren Aztarnak. Un año de adquisiciones y donaciones" (A year of acquisitions and donations). 1993.
  • "Los Baroja y el mar. Homenaje a Julio Caro Baroja" (The Barojas and the sea.A tribute to Julio Caro Baroja). 1995.
  • "Recoger hoy para mañana" (Collecting today for tomorrow). 1996. An exhibition on the need to preserve maritime heritage.
  • "Anatomy of an 18th century ship: the Album of Juan José Navarro". 1996.
  • "Barcos del Golfo de Bizkaia. La pintura marítima de Juan Carlos Arbex" (Ships in the Bay of Biscay. A maritime painting by Juan Carlos Arbex). 1996.
  • "Museoaren lan ixila. Muestra de adquisiciones y donaciones, 1993-1997" (An exhibition of acquisitions and donations, 1993-1997). 1997.
  • "Las conservas de pescado en el País Vasco: industria y patrimonio" (Fish canning in the Basque country: industry and heritage). 1997.
  • "Arrantzaleak. Fotografías de Gorka Salmerón" (Photographs by Gorka Salmerón). 1998.
  • "Euzkadiko Gudontzidia. La Marina de Guerra Auxiliar de Euzkadi, 1936-39" (The Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country, 1936-39). 1998. Exhibition about this naval force created by the Basque Government in the service of the Republic.
  • "Pasaia. Memoria histórica y perspectivas de futuro" (Pasajes. Historical memories and future prospects). 1999.
  • "Itsastarrak. El mar en la obra de José Ortiz-Echagüe" (The sea in the work of José Ortiz-Echagüe). 1999.
  • "Las embarcaciones tradicionales ante el nuevo milenio" (Traditional vessels for the new millennium). 2000.
  • "Bajo pólvora y estrellas. Churruca y otros marinos vascos de la Ilustración" (Under gunpowder and stars.Churruca and other Basque sailors of the Enlightenment). 2000.
  • "Untzi Museoa-Naval Museum. Itsas memoria lantzen. En torno a la memoria marítima" (About maritime memories). (10th anniversary of the Museum). 2001.
  • "La costa guipuzcoana en la obra de Petit de Meurville (1857-1873)" (The Guipuzkoan coast in the work of Petit de Meurville (1857-1873)). 2001.
  • "Itsas Marruma. Viejas imágenes fotográficas del litoral vasco (1850-1960)" (Old photographic images of the Basque Coast (1850-1960)). 2002.
  • "El litoral vasco en la obra de Isidoro Guinea (1934-36)" (The Basque coast in the work of Isidoro Guinea (1934-36)). 2004.
  • "La memoria sumergida. Arqueología y patrimonio subacuático vasco" (Submerged memory. Archaeology and underwater Basque heritage). 2004.
  • "Estropadak. Carteles de regatas de traineras" (Posters of rowing boat regattas). 2005.
  • "San Sebastián, ciudad marítima" (San Sebastian, maritime city). 2007-2008. Tour through the maritime history of San Sebastian from materials of great historical value.
  • "Los vascos y el Pacífico. Homenaje a Andrés de Urdaneta" (The Basques and the Pacific. A tribute to Andrés de Urdaneta). 2008-2011. Overview of the Basque presence in the Pacific and the far East from the 16th to the 21st century.
  • -"Naufragios en la costa vasca" (Shipwrecks on the Basque Coast). 2012.
  • -"Cazadores de ballenas" (Whale hunters). 2011-2013. The first exhibition organised in the Basque country on this subject.
  • "La costa guipuzcoana en el arte" (The Guipuzkoan coast in art). 2014.
  • "La gran pesca del bacalao" (Cod fishing). 2014-2015.
  • "Las mujeres y el mar" (Women and the sea). 2016

Exhibitions organised in collaboration with other centres and bodies:

  • "Imaginando un Museo Naval" (Imagining a Naval Museum). 1993. Organised in collaboration with the San Sebastian School of Architecture.
  • "Arrantzalea zer den itsasoak daki. Exposición fotográfica sobre el mundo de la pesca" (Photographic exhibition on the world of fishing). 1994. In collaboration with Euzkadiko Itsas Gaztedia. Itinerary: San Sebastian, Getaria, Mutriku, Orio, Hondarribia, Bermeo, Saint Jean de Luz and Biarritz.
  • "Los Vikingos" (The Vikings). 1995. In collaboration with the Norwegian embassy
  • "La Isla de los Vascos" (Île aux Basques). Photographs by Joan Fontcuberta. 2003. In collaboration with the Artium Museum.
  • "Marea negra" (Black tide). 2003. Presentation on the environmental effects of the sinking of the Prestige in the Bay of Biscay. In collaboration with Colegio Profesional de Xornalistas de Galicia (Galician Journalist Association), the Burla Negra Association and Argazki Press.
  • "Olas perfectas: creación y desaparición" (Perfect waves: creation and disappearance). 2006. Exhibition on the world of surfing organised in collaboration with Surfilmfestibal.
  • "La fuerza del mar" (The strength of the sea). 2008. Photographic exhibition on large waves and storms on the Basque coast. In collaboration with the Asociación de Informadores Gráficos del País Vasco (EIGE) (Basque Country Press Photographers Association).
  • "1813. Asedio, incendio y reconstrucción de San Sebastián" (1813. Siege, fire and reconstruction of San Sebastián). 2013-2014. In collaboration with the DSS2016EU Foundation and the San Telmo Museum.

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.

Educational activities

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:

  • "Lagun Artean. De la mar al museo" (From the sea to the museum). A programme linked to one of the inshore fishing vessels recovered by the museum.
  • "La caza de la ballena" (The whale hunt). Theatrical staging.
  • "Elcano, ¿qué rumbo llevas?" (Elcano, where are you heading?). The first round-the-world trip.
  • "Artes de pesca" (Fishing gear).
  • "Las rosas del viento" (Wind roses). Cartography workshop.
  • "Introducción al patrimonio" (Introduction to heritage). Workshop on the work that the museum does regarding the recovery, preservation, research and dissemination of maritime heritage.
  • "El mundo se da la mano" (The world shakes hands). Programme on maritime trade.
  • "Viaje a Terranova" (Journey to Newfoundland). Transatlantic fisheries.
  • "Desde la Casa-Torre del Consulado" (From the Maritime Consul's tower house).
  • "Arte de fabricar bateles" (The art of making small boats/skiffs). Shipbuilding workshop.
  • "Oficios del mar" (Seafaring trades).
  • "Kontu-kontari itsasoan zehar". Dramatisation of folk tales.
  • "¡Hombre al agua!" (Man overboard!). Workshop dedicated to maritime search and rescue.
  • -"Regatas de la Concha" (La Concha regattas). Workshop on rowing boat regattas
  • "El galeón de Manila" (The Manila Galleon). Workshop on trade with Chiina and life aboard a 17th century galleon.
  • "Memorias de Red Bay" (Memories of Red Bay). Whale hunting in the 16th century.
  • "El bacalao que pescao tan salao" (Cod, what a salty fish). Gymkhana
  • "De Pasaia a Terranova. La ruta de bacalao" (From Pasajes to Newfoundland. The cod route).

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:

  • "San Sebastián, ciudad marítima" (San Sebastian, maritime city). Historical-literary itinerary. Programme which publicises the maritime heritage and history of the city.
  • "Baroja route". Itinerary that allows us to explore the city sights related to the Baroja family. (A programme that came about from the exhibition "Los Baroja y el Mar. Homenaje a Julio Caro Baroja"). (The Barojas and the sea. A tribute to Julio Caro Baroja).
  • "El patrimonio urbano que sobrevivió a la destrucción de 1813" (Urban heritage that survived the destruction of 1813). The Maritime Consul's Tower House of the was one of the few buildings that was saved.

Participation, promotion of creativity, knowledge transfer and emotions are the concepts-guidelines used in designing educational programs.

Research and publications

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:

  • Various authors: Antonio de Gaztañeta (1656-1728). 1992.
  • Various authors: Los Baroja y el mar. Homenaje a Julio Caro Baroja (The Barojas and the sea. A tribute to Julio Caro Baroja). 1995.
  • Various authors: Las conservas de pescado en el País Vasco: industria y patrimonio (Fish canning in the Basque country: industry and heritage). 1997.
  • Juan Pardo: Euzkadiko Gudontzidia. La Marina de Guerra Auxiliar de Euzkadi, 1936-39.1998 (The Auxiliary Navy of the Basque Country, 1936-39). 2nd Edition. 2008).
  • Various authors: Pasaia. Memoria histórica y perspectivas de futuro (Pasajes. Historical memory and future prospects). 1999.
  • Various authors: Las embarcaciones tradicionales ante el nuevo milenio (Traditional vessels for the new millennium). 2000.
  • Mª Dolores González-Ripoll: Bajo pólvora y estrellas. Churruca y otros marinos vascos de la Ilustración (Under gunpowder and stars. Churruca and other Basque sailors of the Enlightenment). 2000.
  • José Mª Unsain: Itsas Marruma. Viejas imágenes fotográficas del litoral vasco (1850-1960) (Old photographic images of the Basque Coast (1850-1960)). 2002.
  • Various authors: La memoria sumergida. Arqueología y patrimonio subacuático vasco (Submerged memory. Archaeology and underwater Basque heritage). 2004.
  • Various authors: San Sebastián, ciudad marítima. (San Sebastian, maritime city). 2008. (Versions in Basque and Castilian).
  • Various authors: Los vascos y el Pacífico. Homenaje a Andrés de Urdaneta (The Basques and the Pacific. A tribute to Andrés de Urdaneta). 2009.
  • José Mª Unsain: Naufragios en la costa vasca (Shipwrecks on the Basque Coast). 2012.
  • José Mª Unsain: Balleneros vascos. Imágenes y vestigios de una historia singular (Basque whalers. Images and vestiges of a unique history). 2012 (1st ed.), 2014 (2nd ed.).
  • José Mª Unsain: La costa guipuzcoana en el arte (The Guipuzkoan coast in art). 2014.

The museum has also published some works of a purely informational nature. These are some examples:

  • Various authors: Itsas aurrean. El País Vasco y el mar a través de la historia (The Basque Country and the sea through history). 1995.
  • José Mª Unsain: Untzi Museoa-Naval Museum. En torno a la memoria marítima (About maritime memories). 2001.

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.

  • Tapio Koivukari: "La matanza de los españoles. Desarrollo de los hechos y reflexiones. (Balleneros vascos en Islandia en el siglo XVII) (The slaughter of Spaniards. Facts and reflections. (Basque whalers in Iceland in the seventeenth century)), 2013.
  • José María Unsain: "Iconografía del siglo XIX sobre los sitios de San Sebastián de 1813" (Iconography of the 19th century on sites in San Sebastian 1813), 2013.
  • Iñaki García de Vicuña: "El transporte fluvial en el Urumea. Actividad y gestión de sus puertos. Siglos XVI al XIX" (River transport on the Urumea. Activity and management of its ports. 16th to the 19th century), 2014.

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

Protection and recovery of tangible and intangible maritime heritage

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.

Intangible maritime heritage has also been the subject of various protection interventions

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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