Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. Photographer: Pérez de Rosas
Exchange of US, British and German prisoners at Barcelona port, May 17th, 1944
On January 26th, 2014, it will be 75 years since Franco’s troops entered Barcelona near the end of the Spanish Civil War. To commemorate this painful anniversary and educate the public about the events that followed it, the Ajuntament will inaugurate an exhibition in Montjuïc Castle featuring historical documents from the immediate post-Civil War period, many of which have never before been made available to the public. The exhibition, Barcelona en Postguerra: 1939-1945, will run until June 30th, 2014.
There have been four smaller exhibits leading up to this more extensive exhibition. Although three of these have already ended (one showed the links between the city and the Nazi and Italian Fascist regimes of the time, another demonstrated how the city’s cultural calendar and public spaces were taken over and changed according to the priorities of the Fascists, and a third explored the everyday life of people in Les Corts during the post-war years, through photos and other graphic archives), the fourth exhibit, ‘The City After the Defeat’, runs until January 27th, 2014. Located at the Arxiu Municipal Contemporani de Barcelona (Bisbe Caçador 4), it documents methods of municipal organisation as the Francoist regime tried to rebuild the infrastructure of an incredibly damaged city.
The Ajuntament and the Fundació Carles Pi i Sunyer are the driving forces behind the exhibition, and Mireia Capdevila i Candell is the coordinator of the Historic Archives within the Fundació Carles Pi i Sunyer. She has been in charge of coordinating the technical team and reviewing the documentation for the exhibit, as well as being the direct link between the city council and the designers of the exhibition. She says that the idea of starting with the four smaller exhibits was to pique the interest of the citizens of Barcelona before inaugurating the main show in January.
“This is an entire programme of activities with its roots in a larger project, it is not just an exhibition,” she says. There will be the publication of a book by the same name as the Montjuïc exhibition as well as activities for schoolchildren, conferences and lectures.
“What we want is to be as objective as possible with regards to the information that we display,” says Montserrat Beltran i Morales, director at the Arxiu Municipal Contemporani. “Obviously we’ve selected the documents that we think are the most important representations of the changes during this time, but we’ve tried not to twist the information towards or away from any particular point of view. That way, people will form their own opinions based on factual information. They are the hard proof of the events that shaped our past.” The organisers want Barcelona’s citizens to see the documents with their own eyes, so they can directly judge history for themselves.
Joaquim Borrás Gómez is the head archivist for Barcelona’s Municipal Archives, which maintains a collection of historical documents dating from the year 1820 until the present day, and was the source for all the documents that will be included in the exhibition. He says they wanted to put on the main exhibition in Montjuïc Castle because it is a space that has been recovered by the city after having played such a bloody role in this part of its history. “The castle represented repression; people who didn’t agree with the regime were executed there—it was a symbol of fear—and now we have the opportunity to turn the symbol on its head.
“We want this exposition to also serve as a reclamation of peace. We want to show what repression and violence really does to a culture, to warn future generations against this kind of violence. It seems like an anecdote when you hear your grandfather talk about having lived through the Civil War, or if you read it in a history book, but these are real events that happened to real people.”
He says that they also want tourists visiting Barcelona to learn more about the makeup of Spain and Catalunya. “Even though it is not a pretty part of our history, it is an important part of our history. It’s part of who we are.” The show will be in Catalan, but there will also be printed explanations in Castilian, French and English.
The Montjuïc exhibition will be interactive and include recreations of various environments as they were then (eg. a typical schoolroom), in order to give people an idea of the context for the events they’ll be reading about. “There will be some displays that will be difficult to see,” Borrás admits. “We hope it will be an emotional experience that people will learn from. A city without a memory of the past isn’t capable of creating projects for its future, and while we want to commemorate the past with this project, we also want to look ahead towards what the future will be for our children.” www.bcn.cat/arxiu