History and Strategy

Foundation and history. 1996

The Museo Marítimo Ría de Bilbao maritime museum was made possible by the efforts of the not-for-profit private foundation of the same name set up in 1996. The Foundation was set up by a group of people with close links to the sea and particularly to the Bilbao river estuary. With the incorporation of the Foundation and the future museum, they sought to promote research into and the conservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage represented by maritime activities throughout history on the River estuary, in the port of Bilbao and elsewhere in the province of Bizkaia.

The Governing Board was set up in 1997, comprising representatives of leading areas of public and private life in Bilbao. The museum’s sponsorship and patronage programme was introduced in 1999, along lines already used by the businesses and institutions that belonged to the Governing Board of the Foundation.

The museum has a surface area of around 27,000m². It features both indoor and outdoor exhibition areas. The large, exterior dock area is home to a significant part of its collection, in the form of actual vessels. The indoor exhibition area is divided into three main topics: the river estuary itself, the development of trade in and around Bilbao and the development of shipbuilding on the river. It also has plenty of room to organise temporary exhibitions as a complement to its permanent collection.

Museo Marítimo Ría de Bilbao, activity report for 2003-2018

Download the report on the activities of the museum.

Itsasmuseum, strategic lines

Mission, vision and values


The mission of Itsasmuseum is “to spread knowledge of our maritime culture and work for our maritime heritage”.
“Culture” here is understood as an ensemble of knowledge, ideas, traditions and customs that characterise a people, and “Maritime” refers to our own specific area of action. The link between the Basques and the sea via the Bay of Biscay dates back to our very origins, and in Bizkaia the Bilbao river estuary has always been our gateway to the rest of the world. Our heritage boasts numerous tangible and intangible vestiges of our maritime past that deserve to be recognised and highlighted.


The vision of the museum is to be acknowledged by 2022 as a benchmark for maritime culture in the Bay of Biscay.


INNOVATION: We seek to spread knowledge of our maritime culture and highlight the maritime heritage of Bilbao and Bizkaia. Using the new techniques and opportunities offered by technology, we seek to convey a different point of view, through a more interactive, experience-based visit that is attractive to our audience and enables us to reach new demographics.

OPENNESS: We seek to be a museum that is popular, close at hand and proactive in working with other social and cultural actors. To that end we encourage active engagement and seek to set up an inclusive maritime community that is accessible to people from all walks of life.

EXCELLENCE: The museum pursues quality, authenticity and excellence in all its areas of action, including management, the services that it offers and, above all, in the way that it cares for visitors and in its visitor experience.

SUSTAINABILITY: We have chosen to adopt measures and offer information and training in areas such as social, economic and environmental sustainability and to apply strict parameters in these areas to the activities of the museum.

Itsasmuseum is open to culture and knowledge in the scope of the history of the Maritime heritage of Bilbao and Bizkaia.

Strategic lines

To protect and disseminate the maritime culture of Bizkaia.

To form part of the project to make Bilbao a city of values, culture and knowledge and help to consolidate it.

To provide a forum for participation that acts responsibly in regard to the surrounding area and the community of which it is a part.

To work to attain excellence in our area of action and promote active listening.

Commitment to quality

In its ongoing pursuit of excellence in processes and services and its desire to enhance the quality of its visitor experience, Itsasmuseum has joined numerous programmes that share the same aims.

SICTED: This is a programme of recognition of engagement with setting up an all-round system of tourist quality at destinations.

INNOVATION: This is an initiative aimed at businesses, which seeks to help them optimise their use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the Basque tourist industry.

CARBON FOOTPRINT: Itsasmuseum has obtained the Bilbao City Hall certificate for businesses committed to the environment.

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