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Why move on to a new phase?
The museum, originally named Museo Marítimo Ría de Bilbao, is now 15 years old, and is growing up. Over the past 15 years, the museum has accumulated a collection of over 1000 exhibits with heritage value, organised over 80 temporary exhibitions, welcomed over 60 vessels to its docks and received more than 1 million visitors, including 10,000 school children per year. It has also produced publications and held talks, workshops and many other cultural activities.
In 2017 the museum approved a Strategic Plan to reinforce its focus on maritime affairs and present the Bilbao river estuary as the gateway to the Bay of Biscay. In 2018 two strategic projects were implemented, with the opening of the Port Centre as an interpretation centre for the current port and the promotion of Erain as a knowledge pole for shipwrighting. 2019 has seen a number of further improvements in the collection, the permanent exhibition and the visitor experience, with the opening up of new areas, enhanced educational resources, etc. This process of renovation is accompanied by the introduction of a new corporate identity with a new brand, Itsasmuseum Bilbao, with the following stand-out features.
1º Maritime discourse
The museum tells the tale of the maritime culture that has shaped our identity, and it does so in an open but idiosyncratic way. Bilbao, Bizkaia and their people have always lived, worked and played in close contact with the sea. All along the coast of Bizkaia there are fishing and short sea shipping ports, and Bilbao was a port before it even had its charter as a city. Maritime trade routes, shipbuilding and industry linked to the sea have been a way of living here for centuries. But nowadays the sea is also a source of leisure, sport and enjoyment through rowing, sailing, surfing, etc.
The museum seeks to be a venue for reflection and debate, and thus promotes a number of actions such as cycles, talks and publications. This is always done with the sea as a theme, taking on its values as our own: environment, team work, sustainability and critical thinking in the face of the need to adapt. These values are all fundamental in tackling the new challenges that face the museum in the knowledge society.
3º Social Innovation
The museum also acts as a factor for inclusion and works to provide access to culture for all differently-abled persons. The museum is shared by people from different cultures and generations, and efforts are made to maintain an enriching, inter-generational, inter-cultural dialogue also in personal matters. This is an exercise in innovation that seeks to encourage social cohesion.
Driven by this same spirit of cooperation, the museum has reached numerous agreements with organisations in and close to the maritime world.
4º Knowledge and heritage
The museum is a driver for the recovery of knowledge, research and conservation of maritime heritage and memories. At Erain we are working on traditional shipwrighting in Bizkaia, and with the help of a multi-disciplinary team we are painstakingly restoring the tuna fishing boat Nuevo Anchústegui. This process will give rise to a manual of good practices. Through our network of academic collaborators we are also promoting a collection of anthropological studies under the title “Maritimidades”.
Finally, at the heart of it, all are the people. Those who, together with the institutions, promoted the creation of the Foundation and the Museum from the start. Those who, over the years, have joined our Community. And, in general, the people from Bilbao and Biscay who find their Maritime Museum here. We are deeply grateful to them all.
All these features of our identity and the changes made in our process of continual improvement are reflected in Itsasmuseum Bilbao. This name and the symbol that accompanies it (which symbolises a large ship leaving a shipyard) were chosen because of the location of the museum on the Euskalduna docks. They make up an attractive, innovative brand image with a personality of its own.
With 15 years of history behind it, the museum has now taken the name Itsasmuseum Bilbao. This new phase is grounded on the positive experiences gained over the years. The intention is for it to be a phase of growth in which the museum consolidates its position as a benchmark in the maritime world of the Bay of Biscay.
Jon Ruigómez Matxin
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