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The Museo del Prado's nearly 200 years of history available now on its website
Price quotations by different Spanish and non-Spanish companies for making two display cases for the Dauphin’s Treasure, 1914. Archive of the Museo Nacional del Prado.

MADRID.- To mark the recent celebration of the Museum’s 198th anniversary, as of today the Museo del Prado in collaboration with Telefónica has made its digitalised documentary holdings available to the public. The archive spans documents dating from 1814 on the creation of the design for a new museum to recent ones from the Museum’s archive; documentation generated by the Museo de la Trinidad which offers an account of its activities from 1839 to its fusion with the Prado in 1872; and letters, personal and professional documentation relating to prominent cultural figures who had close ties to the Museum, such as the Madrazo family and Valentín Carderera. Taken as a whole, this material allows for a study of the Museo del Prado’s almost 200 years of existence and by extension the history of Spanish culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Prado’s archive houses documents created and received by the institution in the course of its activities, since 1819 when it was known as the Real Museo de Pintura, to the present day; the archives of the Museo Nacional de Pinturas, better known as the Museo de la Trinidad; and a series of personal archives including documentation received through donations or acquisition. The possibility of consulting the archive on the Museum’s official website will firstly provide access for the researchers and millions of users who cannot come to the Museum and will secondly mean that some chapters in the Prado’s history can now be rewritten.

The Museo del Prado is committed to being a leader in the free dissemination of information by offering online consultation of both its collection of works of art and the holdings of its archive. The Prado is now the first Spanish museum and one of the pioneers worldwide to make almost 12,000 digitalised documents available from its historical archive. The number of documents will gradually increase as the process of cataloguing and digitalising the Museum’s holdings advances.

This project has given rise to the work undertaken by the Museum’s Archive and Documentation and Department of Digital Development departments.

For its part, Telefónica’s collaboration with the Museum to make its historical archive accessible complements other projects that have made it possible to bring the Museo del Prado to visitors and art lovers all over the world. Among the most recent projects are the Prado’s own website, the “Goya in the Prado” website and the online course on Velázquez.

The Museo del Prado Archive
The earliest documents in this archive date from 1814, just a few years before the Museum’s inauguration. Its contents focus on the origins of the collection and the paintings that were originally intended for a new museum to be created to resemble the great Europe art museums. This archive also includes documentation on the organisation of the Gallery of Paintings and the appointment of staff for the new institution. The archive expanded with the addition of further documentation under the directorship of the Duke of Hijar and continued later under José de Madrazo and succeeding directors as the result of the growth of the Museum’s activities, the continual increase in the number of works in the collection, the creation of new galleries, the arrival of new acquisitions and the deposits made to other institutions. All this led to a growing number of documents that faithfully reflected the various organisational changes which the Museum has undergone over the course of nearly 200 years.

The principal series of documents that can now be consulted on the website are: Correspondence generated by the different directors; Acquisitions; Donations and Bequests; Restoration work; Building projects and maintenance; Museography; and the Spanish Civil War. Taken together, this material will allow for a study of the Museum’s history and by extension of Spain’s cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries. This is the largest holding which, together with the historical documentation, also includes documentation transferred to it by the Museum’s different departments within the timeframes established by law.

Museo Nacional de Pinturas – Museo del la Trinidad
The now defunct Museo Nacional de Pintura, better known as the Museo de la Trinidad, was founded following Mendizábal’s Disentailment of Spain’s religious houses (1835-1837) as an institution to house works of art from the convents and monasteries that were closed down in Madrid and other provinces of central Spain. The Trinidad existed between 1837 and 1872, at which date it was closed and its holdings sent to the Prado.

The archive contains a small part of the documentation generated by the Museo de la Trinidad, which depended directly on the Ministry of Public Works and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where much of its archive is now housed. The Prado only has a few documents but they offer an account of the Trinidad’s activities from 1839 to its fusion with the Prado in 1872. They primarily consist of correspondence from the director’s office, personal files, restoration information and financial accounts. They span the years 1839 to 1872.

Personal archives
The personal archives section comprises personal and professional documents relating to prominent cultural figures associated with the Museo del Prado. This documentation is of a similar type to the above: correspondence, personal documents and others relating to professional matters.

The Madrazo family personal archive The Madrazo family is associated not only with Spain’s cultural and artistic life in the 19th century but also with the directorship of the Museum. José de Madrazo and his son Federico were both directors of the Prado at important moments in its history. Much of this documentation has been acquired from their heirs.

This holding consists of personal documents such as family trees, diaries, proofs of nobility and association, family photographs, lists of bequests, inheritances, division of possessions, inventories of paintings, personal and family correspondence and an important collection of letters.

The Valentín Carderera personal archive and correspondence
Valentín Carderera y Solano was one of Spain’s most important 19th-century collectors which, combined with his other facets as a writer, painter and archaeologist, make him one of the most prominent figures within the Spanish art world of this time. His work as an artist is represented in the Prado’s collection by a group of drawings and albums acquired by the Museum from the Dukes of Villahermosa in 2005. The archive consists of an important collection of documents relating to his personal and professional life, inventories, the valuation of his important library and part of his personal correspondence from 1837 to 1868.

The Salvador Viniegra personal archive
As well as a painter, Salvador Viniegra was deputy director of the Museo del Prado from 1890 to 1898 and a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes in Cadiz. He participated in numerous exhibitions and competitions and was awarded a First Prize medal at the National Exhibition in 1887, a first class status at the same event in 1901 and an award in the 1904 edition. He also obtained the First Prize medal at the Regional Exhibition in Cadiz in 1885, the First Class State medal at the Vienna Universal Exhibition in 1888 and the First Class gold medal at the same event in Munich in 1894.

The archive housed in the Prado comprises 139 personal letters dating from between 1892 and 1894 which cast light on Viniegra’s private life and professional activities.

The José María Cervelló Grande collection
In 2003 a mixed formula of donation and purchase allowed the Prado to acquire the library of José María Cervelló Grande, comprising nearly 9,000 books and documents on history and art theory. The Museum’s archive houses the donation of Cervello’s documents collection, which is of great interest for the history of art and represents a significant enrichment to the Prado’s documentary holdings. These documents date from 1516 to 1923.

Functions of the Museo Nacional del Prado’s digital archive
The website of the archive has a general search function with which users can enter free text to access any file or document relating to their search. In order to introduce the overall content of the Museum’s archive its presents the principal holdings published: Directors’ correspondence; Financial management; Museographical projects; the Spanish Civil War; Madrazo and Cervelló.

The advanced search function allows for specialist and combined searches by type of holding, section, series, date range, descriptive factors such as materials, people, places and institutions, and press mark.

The results of searches are presented summarised and categorised by type of document, related people and institutions, and holding and material. Alongside hierarchical navigation by category there is also the option of navigation by entity or relational labels that provide contextual information on the file or document presented.

Each level has a zoom function for easier reading of the document, which interested users can also download in PDF format.

The Museo del Prado’s semantic website
In December 2015 the Museo Nacional del Prado launched its present semantic website in collaboration with Telefónica. This website constitutes the first use of a Knowledge Graph, devised by the Prado from the integration of the principles of the semantic web with the totality of the Museum’s contents. This new approach to the information, now structured semantically, allowed for the development of one of the project’s most significant features: the faceted search function.

Thanks to this new and powerful search function, users of the Museum’s website can access all the information contained in it by applying personal patterns and sequences of reasoning and search. In addition, the content recommendation systems, which also derive from this structuring of data, have made it easier to delve further into the requested information through a complete labelling of the works and artists that comprise the Museum’s collection.

The website was made one of the Museum’s priority projects within its biannual 2013-2016 Action Plan. Following its launch, it was recognised as the best website of a cultural institution, winning two Webby 2016 awards (jury and public prizes).

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