Founded in 1867, the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid holds an extensive collection of archaeological materials belonging to the Iberian Peninsula and other areas throughout the Mediterranean, offering an overview of the region’s historical diversity. Between 2008 and 2013 a comprehensive renovation of the 19th century building and a redesign and reinstallation of its permanent exhibition was carried out, making possible to extend the public areas, display new objects and encourage a greater understanding of the museum’s exhibition discourse and further make new services available to visitors.
The task of designing nearly 10,000 square metres of exhibition space and over 13,000 artefacts on display in this museum can be summed up in two words: diversity and specificity.
The project involved diverse periods and objects (ranging from prehistory to the founding of the museum in the 19th century, with palaeontological, archaeological collections and, in the Middle Ages and Modern Era, paintings, sculptures and decorative arts, as well as galleries devoted to Egypt, the Near East and Greece and a coin cabinet); diverse solutions (both aesthetic and technical) for displaying those artefacts; and diverse resources for helping visitors to understand the collections, including 850 illustrations and 55 AV productions.
Each exhibit also required specific treatment: we mounted a wide variety of artefacts, from fragile objects like the decorated scapula from Castillo Cave (Cantabria), a notable specimen of Magdalenian portable art, to intricate, cumbersome medieval and Renaissance carved ceilings, statuary from the first millennium BCE (e.g. the Ladies of Elche, Baza and Ibiza), Roman mosaics and sarcophagi, carvings, tapestries and porcelain. Furthermore, we had to devise specific aesthetic and technical solutions for each piece in its exhibition context, and design specific resources to facilitate the interpretation of the collections.