The National Museum of Anthropology was the first museum devoted to this science created in Spain. It was founded through the personal initiative of the Sevillian doctor Pedro González Velasco. King Alfonso XII inaugurated it in 1875 as the Anatomical or Anthropological Museum.
Later, the museum came under the former Cabinet of Natural History, now as a public institution and renamed the National Museum of Natural Sciences. With this name, it then became the responsibility of the Spanish National Research Council, firstly as the Museum of Anthropology, Ethnography and Prehistory, and then as the National Ethnology Museum, becoming a museum devoted exclusively to cultural anthropology.
The doctor’s collection was expanded with the objects brought by various expeditions organised by the Spanish institutions in the final years of the 19th century, and with the collections of the Natural Sciences Museum, including the ethnographic collection which formed part of the Philippines Exhibition organised in 1887 in the Retiro Park, the last great colonial exhibition of the Spanish Empire. It later continued to grow thanks to donations and acquisitions made by the Directorate General of Fine Arts, Cultural Heritage, Archives and Libraries, to which it has belonged since the 1960s.
Today, without abandoning its identity, the museum has evolved into an institution whose main purpose is the dissemination of the values of cultural diversity and the respect it merits. Indeed, the museum’s permanent exhibition is directed at offering an overview of the cultures of different peoples to enable visitors to appreciate the way this cultural diversity enriches us. You’ll see that the cultural groups are organised by continent, and within each of them, the various displays are arranged according to a single scheme or yardstick of functional contexts that is repeated in each room.
The public area is also the framework of the programme of activities , which offers you the chance of enjoying a much more interesting experience during your visit to the museum.
This includes the programme of interactive school visits and the guided visits for adults, one of the MNA’s hallmarks. Also the games with clues and a host of workshops for families distributed throughout the yearly calendar, the concerts and other performances for all and the rest of a programme aimed at promoting the museum’s participation and involvement as a place of transformational experiences.