National Museum of Underwater Archaeology

by La Sevillana /
La Sevillana's picture
Mar 04, 2010 / 0 comments

Given that I normally find museum visits immensely tedious after the first 30 minutes, I was not exactly thrilled to visit the Museo Nacional de Arqeología Subacuática [National Museum of Underwater Archaeology] in Cartagena. However, this museum, located in a region of Spain known more for its agricultural sector than its cultural sophistication, was nothing short of phenomenal.


I’ve grown accustomed to top down, hyper-controlled museum experiences that take a passive learning approach to visitor “interaction” with exhibits. To my great delight, most of the exhibits were hands on and interactive (see the photo at left), designed to teach about underwater excavation and how artefacts are processed and analyzed through active learning. The features included a simulated lab (see the photo below). In truth, the museum was such a visual feast that I spent just as much time marvelling at the structure and the effects of the lighting as I did engaged with the exhibits, and it was all I could do to keep from dashing mindlessly from exhibit to exhibit and squealing with delight. The museum is nothing short of a marvel and is a real monument to the Spanish flair for the visual and experiential. When’s the last time you were excited and inspired by a museum visit?




StructureThe museum is housed in the ARQUA building (at right), which is itself pretty amazing and designed by Guillermo Vásquez-Consuegra, one-time winner of Spain’s National Architecture Award. In addition to the exhibits, ARQUA has rooms that can be reserved for classrooms, computers on-site that allow visitors to keep up-to-date on all archaeology-related activities in Spain via the Internet, and, of course, a gift shop. Bring it on!

Cartagena is a port city located on the southeast coast of Spain, situated on the Mediterranean. The architecture of the city is notably different from that found in Seville, where Moorish styles prevail. At least in the city center, the most dominant style was art nouveau, and I felt a bit like I’d been transported from southern Spain to France (or at least as far north as Barcelona!). This may be why Cartagena is rarely on the “must see” list of visitors to the Peninsula – it lacks the exotic, east meets west (or is it north meets south?) appeal so easily visible in other parts of the south and is notably “European.” Port

Like all places on the Peninsula, Cartagena boasts a complicated and interesting history, and there are various historical sites of interest, including a Roman coliseum. The food is, of course, fabulous, and there is a growing community of immigrants opening shops and restaurants, mixing things up a bit and bringing diversity. The city also boasts the Museo Regional Arte Moderno [Regional Museum of Modern Art], housed in another scrumptious monument to the art nouveau architectural style. Unfortunately, as I only visited the city for a few hours and spent most of those hours gleefully exploring the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, I cannot speak for the exhibits there. I’m guessing they would be considerably less hands on, given that works of art are the focus – although one should never underestimate the ability of the Spanish to keep things interesting.

Cartagena may not be on the agenda of the typical tourist, but I do recommend a visit to the city and its museums. ¡Viva España!



La Sevillana is the Anthropology, Andalusia Editor for Wandering Educators