WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: The Valencia History Museum
05 Sep 2022 /

WORLD DESIGN SPOTLIGHT: The Valencia History Museum

The building that houses the Valencia History Museum was originally the city’s first reservoir. Built by Ildefons Cerdà and Leodegario Marchessaux, based on an original design by Calixto Santa Cruz, it formed part of the general project to supply water to the city. Cerdà has earned a place in history as one of the founders of contemporary town planning in Spain. His principal and most famous contribution was the Ensanche of Barcelona, one of the largest residential neighbourhoods in Europe. 

The current museum building was initially designed for the catchment of water from the river Turia in the neighbouring town of Manises. The water was decanted and piped to a cistern, from where it was finally distributed throughout the city via eight public fountains, the first of which was situated in the Plaza del Negrito. The service was inaugurated in 1850 and was one of the first in Europe.

The cistern, with a surface area of 2600 m2, was originally excavated in the ground and was covered with eleven brick vaults supported by 250 pillars. At full capacity, it could hold over 9000 m3 of water. Its location, on the edge of the municipality of Valencia, was chosen due to the need to achieve the maximum possible pressure for supply.

Over time, demand increased and it was necessary to build new reservoirs. This one gradually lost relevance until, in the second half of the twentieth century, it was decommissioned and almost abandoned. “Rediscovered” in the mid-nineties, it was restored to bring back to life one of the most acclaimed jewels of Valencian industrial architecture. 

The renovation was carried out between 1998 and 2001 and was very respectful of the original building. The architect Juan José Garrido, municipal technician of the City Council at that time, was responsible for the renovation and the design of the museum, which was inaugurated in May 2003.

The MhV (Valencia History Museum) was created by a municipal resolution with the mission of studying and disseminating the history of the city, with a discourse that covers everything from the founding of the city to the present day, making use of avant-garde exhibition media, including audiovisual technology.

The museum brings together objects of great diversity, setting out to reflect the different nuances of reality. To this end, together with first-rate works of art or archaeological treasures of great relevance, we find more modest objects, that witness the evolution of the city and its inhabitants throughout history,” they explain at the museum.

The centre boasts an initiative called “Valencia and its people” the purpose of which is to compile the popular graphic image of the city, of the people who have fashioned its history over the last century and a half. The aim is to provide a graphic panorama of the urban landscape, illustrating significant historic events and customs, preferably prior to 1980. 

The collections of “Valencia and its people” can be consulted via the museum’s website, in its Media Lab, or accessed by researchers on request. Furthermore, when specifically allowed by the donors, the images can be used in exhibitions or activities of the Valencia History Museum or in exhibitions of other cultural institutions.

Photos full of memories, people and places in the city, which will be conserved digitally for posterity and, since they form part of the day-to-day history of Valencia, where could they be better placed than in this museum?

Part of the route through the museum includes the recreation of daily moments from Valencia’s past, via dramatized scenes, which enable us to discover eight historic periods and find out more about each stage of the city’s past. The MhV has a shop and a bookshop where visitors can purchase specific publications linked to the history of the city.

Photography: Valencia History Museum.