TOPIC: the International Puppet Museum Centre

Idoya Otegui

TOPIC- International Puppet Center of Tolosa

TOPIC – Plaza Euskalherria, 1 – 20400-TOLOSA

Tolosa, Spain
European Museum Forum / Silletto Prize 2012 winner

A journey into a world of Illusion


TOPIC history began more than twenty years ago. It was in 1982 when the Center for Initiatives of Tolosa - a non-profitable association founded in 1967 by a group of culture lovers - starts a new cultural activity and promotes the creation of an International Puppet Festival, Titirijai. At first, it seemed an original idea, and even a risky proposition in the opinion of many. But finally it took shape and became a successful idea. When the Titirijai Festival was consolidated (last year celebrated its 30th edition), the Center for Initiatives of Tolosa approaches another project: why not to take advantage of our knowledge and capabilities in order to run something new? And... the project of TOPIC starts, therefore, we could say that TOPIC doesn't come from nowhere. On the contrary, it could be seen as a logical consequence of Titirijai

TOPIC's Museum is a very special place that emphasizes imagination, innovation and the originality. The visitors not only enter a world of living objects, poetry, short stories, fiction, but also a material world, an artistic world, a place to play, to create, to preserve, to investigate, to spread, to learn, in short, a world of imagination.

As a museum and research complex, TOPIC also aims to become a meeting point for puppeteers from all over the world. A place where puppeteers or puppet lovers can come together, share experiences, expand knowledge, work in a comfortable, functional and well equipped ambience with the latest infrastructure.

All this is available to all those who share this passion for knowledge, promotion and improvement of the art of puppetry, but also an open place for interaction with other artistic disciplines. In fact, TOPIC is an active member of UNIMA, the International Union of Puppetry, and the oldest theatrical Association in Europe (born in 1929).

Inside TOPIC, among its greatest treasures, it's the puppet museum, whose main interest is the protection of the puppet heritage worldwide, at a local, national and international scale. One aim of the Museum is precisely to emphasize the importance of the puppet as one of the oldest theater forms of humanity and to protect the works of great artists, puppeteers, unknown to the vast majority of the public.

It is our duty to avoid losing them, as has happened in the past: plays, castelets, puppets, etc.., in short, all the knowledge of the whole life of people completely dedicated to this ancient art. In that way, TOPIC contributes to preserve the puppet's heritage with the purchase, donation and loan of puppets from authors and artists still active or deceased.

TOPIC museum is divided into two main areas: on one hand, the permanent exhibition with a highly didactic character. The puppet is introduced through its history, its location, its cultural stamp, and their different techniques and concepts. The architect Dani Freixes was the person in charge of museology and museum design. The professional reputation of the architect has received more recognition as he received the National Award for Interior Architecture a few years ago. On the other hand, we find the temporary exhibition hall. Specialized monographic exhibitions organized with our own puppet funds, either through loans or leases, occupy this space. So far we have had eleven temporary exhibitions, five of which have been organized with puppets from our collection.

Children are the main public of TOPIC. This new museum aims to investigate all aspects related to children''s theater. The aim is to introduce young people to the world of puppetry in their natural environment, intuitively, though supervised and monitored. In turn, this house of puppets is open to all audiences, to all those who appreciate the rigorous communication, but also the generosity, risk, humor, enthusiasm and humility.

As we've said, the world of children and their development is a concern for the TOPIC. They are our future and we should try to educate them in values, that can be given by different means and one especially suitable is the puppet.

As it has been constant since the beginning, the area of pedagogy in TOPIC focuses on different activities that gradually are being consolidated:
  • The School campaign, aimed at schools throughout the Basque Country and neighboring provinces. Children come to enjoy a day dedicated to puppetry.
  • The Garatu Plans. Led by the Ministry of Education of the Basque Government, we conduct annually the so called "Garatu plans" for training teachers in the use of puppetry in the classroom (playing different disciplines such as artistic expression, therapy and puppets, etc.).
  • Workshops for children in holiday periods: Easter, Christmas, summer...
  • We also lead through puppets intergenerational initiatives, social inclusion projects of people with problems or interaction with other arts and other social groups in our city.
Ultimately, our goal is to make TOPIC a Center, a museum, open to all because we believe that a museum, a center like ours, should be at the service of citizens.

To finish, we want to underline that to enter TOPIC means to enter a magic world and what we learn, as a quiet voice reminds us, is that "... a puppet is much more than a doll. It's a living thing. And what is it that brings it to live? The emotions of those who animate it and the emotions of those who watch..."


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