The MARQ, the Archaeological Museum of the Province of Alicante, opened to the public on May 28, 2002 with a ceremony presided over by Her Majesty Queen Sofiacute;a of Spain. The museum is housed in a renovated building in which the archaeological institute can carry out all facets of its mission including conservation, research and dissemination. The MARQ offers a unique and innovative exhibit covering all periods from pre-history until the first third of the twentieth century. The exhibit was designed to be easily accessible and appealing to a wide audience and yet still maintain a high degree of scientific rigor. It combines some 3000 archaeological artefacts with audiovisual complements and interactive computer programs.
Space distribution of the MARQ
In 1995, a project for a new museum was developed which proposed a significant expansion of the Archaeological Museum. The Museum curators who designed the project emphasized the need to endow the institution with sufficient space to carry out conservations projects, do research, prepare exhibits and offer educational activities. Local governmental authorities (the Provincial Government of Alicante) and the Regional government (Generalitat Valenciana) accepted the proposal for the new museum and supported the adaptation of a series of building which had been constructed in the 1920s as the San Juan de Dios Hospital.
The old hospital complex comprised three buildings and covered some 11,300 square meters. The smaller buildings, found just inside the entry gates, now house the cafeteria, a museum shop and the reception area for visitors to the museum. The largest building has approximately 9,000 square meters of usable floor space and houses the museum itself. All of the departments included in the original project proposal were designed and developed by a team of professionals under the direction of Juliaacute;n Esteban Chapapria, the official architect of the Valencian Regional Government. The museum is divided into three large spaces:
The entrance or front of the building includes the public reception area and the administrative offices of the MARQ Foundation (two floors). One of the lateral wings houses the Teaching Unit and the other a formal meeting room where conferences, meetings and cultural events can be held. The central space is made up of eight galleries on two floors that run perpendicular to a large rectangular space which flows all the way from the entrance to the back of the building. The upper floor has approximately 1,000 square meters for temporary exhibits and some 2,200 for the permanent exhibit.
The basement of the central area houses the conservation unit where archaeological artifacts are stored in compartmentalized shelves which can hold up to 20,000 30x40x30 cm boxes. The facility also includes areas for the conservation of larger items and even a section earmarked for glass-front storage which researchers are free to visit. This lower level also boasts a large loading and unloading dock which can accommodate a 40-foot container truck and a shipping and handling department for materials being sent in or out of the museum. There is also a sophisticated restoration lab to meet the needs of a museum with holdings that surpass 80,000 items.
The back end of the building was designed to be used by museum staff and as an entrance for those members of the public who wish to consult the 16,000 volume library. This three-storey library occupies what was formerly the hospital chapel and has a neo-Gothic layout. Two lateral wings are used for special collections and as a general book depository. In the basement of this area, one of the two wings is used as an archive for photographs, videographs, and planimeters, and the other is earmarked for the installation of specialized labs related to important areas of archaeological research such as Physical Anthropology, Archaeozoology, or Sedimentology. Office space for the technical and administrative staff, conservationists and museum directors is located on the upper floor of this section of the museum.
The MARQ Exhibit
The MARQ exhibit was planned to be installed in two phases. In June 2000, the first phase, consisting of four exhibit areas dedicated to Prehistory, the Iberian Period, Roman Culture and the Middle Ages, was completed. The second phase includes a fifth area dedicated to the Modern and Contemporary Periods and an innovative 1,000 square meter exhibit on archaeological methods. An outline of the major goals of the museum was developed and put to bid internationally. Several projects were entered and the award was made to General de Producciones y Disentilde;o. An extensive team of professionals from this enterprise, under the direction of Boris Micka, worked closely with the MARQ technicians to bring the project to fruition.
The historical and cultural story told in the museum is displayed in five separate exhibit halls, each covering approximately 220 square meters of floor space. Although each was conceived as an independent unit, there is an underlying homogeneity in the design which lends a sense of unity and continuity to the entire exhibit. An interactive computer-based activity specifically developed to introduce the archaeological sites related to the period on display is located at the entrance to each of the exhibit halls. Explanatory texts are provided in both Spanish and valenciano (the regional language), and an abbreviated version is provided in English. These, together with a series of illustrative drawings, reflect the important social issues of the period as regards areas such as economics, culture, burial practices, art, craftsmanship, and technological advances. Each exhibit hall has a distinct personality which based on both the specific items and artefacts that are on display and the unique characteristics and advances of the period represented. The audiovisual presentations and period reproductions contribute greatly to the uniqueness of each exhibit.
In the theme halls, large reproductions have been built. Each of these halls is designed as a high-yield learning environment. Large interactive plasma screens hold all of the information gathered, offering an infinite number of combinations related to the methods and results of the archaeological research that was carried out on the site that is reproduced in the hall. These are complemented by 15-meter projection screens for the audiovisual presentations.
The Administrative Organization of the MARQ
The MARQ is administered jointly by two institutions within the framework of an administrative agreement: the Provincial Government of Alicante and the MARQ Foundation. The directors and technical staff of the museum report to the Provincial Government. Administratively, there are three main divisions in this section: excavations, collections and dissemination, and exhibits. All departments are assigned to one of these three divisions, and all initiatives are developed through one of the departments: design, dissemination and publications, teaching and outreach, temporary exhibits, archaeological sites, restoration, laboratories and warehouses or storage. The MARQ Foundation, through its director and Chief Financial Officer, is responsible for building maintenance and non-technical staff. The Foundation also finances a variety of activities and events including temporary exhibits, conferences and publications.
Future plans and projects
The main goal of the MARQ is to continue to coordinate and promote its projects throughout the province of Alicante as well as those proposed by any of the municipal museums in the area. Furthermore, the MARQ intends to create a network of archaeological sites and site-based museums which would include and highlight the Roman city Lucentum (Alicante), the Illeta dels Banyets (El Campello) with ruins from the Bronze Age and the Iberian and Roman eras, and El Pla de Petracos (Castell de Castells) where cave drawings from the Neolithic age have been found. All of these excavation sites come under the Museum's purview.
The MARQ, whose conception coincided with the advent of the 21st century, is committed in the future to being an active and dynamic sponsor of temporary exhibits, conferences, educational workshops and meetings as well as archaeological excavations and research projects.
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