A well-educated country is a modern country
Within Spain there are different cultures, languages, and customs, but the central government has always forgotten about them, and has never bothered to foster them. The Mancomunitat of Catalonia considered as its own responsibility to manage and promote the great cultural projects undertaken by the Diputació of Barcelona.
The Institut d’Estudis Catalans (Institute for Catalan Studies—IEC), the Institut del Teatre (Theatre Institute), the Biblioteca de Catalunya (National Library of Catalonia), and the Biblioteques Populars (Poeple’s Libraries) are some of the best examples.
National Library of Catalonia
In the year 1907, Prat de la Riba founded the National Library of Catalonia as part of the Institute for Catalan Studies, with the idea of creating a collection of Catalonia’s main written works. Seven years later, the Mancomunitat of Catalonia would make it into an open cultural resource, which made it possible to open its doors to the public on May 28th, 1914. In December, 1922 it already had 72,000 works catalogued, from a total of 100,000 books. Until 1940 it was located in the building where the Generalitat is now.
Hours of operation were from 10AM to 12PM, and from 5PM to 8PM. In order to have access to its services, you needed to apply for a library card, which was renewable yearly. It had a lending service of up to five items at a time during fifteen days, with a returnable deposit of 20 pesetas.
The National Library of Catalonia was administered by a board composed of the president of the Mancomunitat, the president and secretary of IEC, one representative for each of the three branches of IEC, a supervisor also appointed by IEC, one representative from the Mancomunitat, and one more from the Barcelona city government. Isidre Bonsoms and Rafael Patxot, two of the main donors to the library’s archive, were also part of the board. The library director acted as secretary of the board.
People’s libraries originated from the need to provide service for everyone. They had two main social goals. On the one hand, to teach the people and heighten their love of learning, without being patronizing. On the other hand, to provide a source of information to scholars and professionals.
Because of this two-pronged approach, they were in fact branches of the National Library of Catalonia and, at the same time, they carried a limited number of titles, carefully chosen to best serve the average reader in every community.
The first people’s libraries were located in their own buildings, built expressly for that purpose, and all had the same basic layout: a reading room for up to 40 people, a room next to it used for talks, the book collection, and places to sit. There was also an office for the librarians, and a room for janitorial purposes. The first people’s library opened on June 23rd, 1918, in Valls.
Some of the new infrastructures proposed in 1923, which would be commissioned by public auction, included the possible relocation of people’s libraries to buildings seized by the government, offered by the towns, or belonging to the bank Caixa de Pensions per a la Vellesa i Estalvis. The possibility of incorporating existing libraries in the network of people’s libraries was also considered.
The process of building a new public library started with the Mancomunitat accepting the land offered by the town. After that, there was an official ceremony to place the first stone of the foundation, then the actual construction was commissioned by public auction, and finally it was completed within the year. During this period, librarians for the new positions were chosen by open application and exams.
The Permanent Council of the Mancomunitat created, on March 17th, 1920, the Central de Biblioteques Populars (People’s Libraries Central Services), so as to expedite book purchases, get better specialized tools and tools for re-binding, and all this would be reflected in the Mancomunitat’s budget.
The Librarian School began operations in November 1915, and it had its origins in the People’s Libraries project proposed by Eugeni d’Ors and approved by the Mancomunitat of Catalonia six months earlier.
It had a reputation for being a prestigious school that educated Catalonia’s future librarians. It meant increased job opportunities for women, and technically, it incorporated the latest library innovations from Europe and the US.
Educational Council Library
It was located in the Universitat Industrial (Technical University) and, in 1923, it had over 6,000 volumes about education. It opened from 12PM to 1PM, and from 4PM to 7PM on weekdays. On Sundays, it opened from 11AM to 1PM.
Readers could borrow books for fifteen days, and in contrast to what was usual at the National Library of Catalonia, you could only borrow books by showing a library card signed by a well-known individual or by an official professor at the school.
Every institution in the Mancomunitat had its own specialized library. Some of these are:
- Escola d’Alts Estudis Comercials (School for Advanced Business Studies)
- Institut d’Orientació (Vocational School)
- Institut de Química (School of Chemistry)
- Institut d’Electricitat i Mecànica Aplicades (School of Applied Electricity and Mechanics)
- Escola d’Indústries tèxtils i tintoreries (School of Textiles)
- Escola Superior d’Agricultura (Agricultural College)
People’s library in Valls — Reading room
First prize for a library project
People’s library in Vendrell
People’s library in Pineda — Reading room
Pictures taken from the book L’obra realitzada: anys 1914-1923 / Mancomunitat de Catalunya (Works performed: Years 1914-23 / Mancomunitat of Catalonia)
Author: Mancomunitat of Catalonia
Year of publication: 1923
Institute for Catalan Studies (IEC)
It was created to reclaim and organize everything having to do with native Catalan culture after public opinion showed the need for it. The Diputació of Barcelona, with Prat de la Riba as president, created the IEC on June 18, 1907. In the next few years, it created its science departments, and in 1917, it published the Spelling Dictionary of Catalan, coordinated by linguist Pompeu Fabra.
It was clearly Catalonia’s leading scientific institution. Its main function was to foster scientific research in all fields connected with Catalan culture.
History and archaeology department
Its goal was to preserve the main archives and libraries that already contained historical or literary volumes of importance.
Through its Research Center, it organized archaeological sites and research about caves, necropolis, cave paintings, Roman ruins, and prehistoric or Iberian settlements. This research took place in locations all over the country, such as Capellades, Centelles, Puig Castellar, Olèrdola, Ribes, Rubí, Sabadell, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Sant Martí Sarroca, Tarragona, Terrassa, and Vilassar.
Its main function was to study Catalan from a scientific point of view. It also sought to make an inventory of all words in Catalan, out together and promote the use of a Catalan dictionary, both in Catalonia and abroad.
It fostered science written in Catalan as a cultural contribution and for nation building.
In 1912, it created the Biology Society in order to promote biology studies both in their natural environment and in relation to disease.
On the other hand, the Catalan Philosophy Society mainly focused on promoting the study of all philosophical branches, thus encouraging historical research on Catalan thinkers.
Barcelona Museums Council
The Barcelona Museums Council originated in 1907 when the Diputació of Barcelona and the city government of Catalonia’s capital decided to join all their museums and thus create the Autonomous Council of Museums, which was in substitution of the old council created specifically for Barcelona. Eight years later the Museum of Ancient and Modern Art was inaugurated in the Ciutadella’s old armory building.
Royal Palace Museum
In this museum there were exhibits of comparative sculpture, Romanesque and Gothic paintings and sculptures, and 16th to 18th centuries paintings and sculptures. It also housed an archeology department and one for decorative arts.
Art and Archeology Library
Its mission was to offer adequate study tools for professionals in these areas and in order to classify originals.
Monument conservation and cataloguing service
It began operations on February 1915, compelled by the need of filling a gap in the study and cataloguing of monuments. The main projects executed in the field of conservation and restoration were:
- Conservation of a Roman kiln (Sant Martí Sarroca)
- Castle of la Geltrú (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
- Cross of Llinars
- Tower of Santa Caterina, Torroella de Montgrí
- Gate of the Torre, Centelles
- Iberian kiln at Fontscaldes
- Hospital de Santa Maria, Lleida
- Monastery of Pedrables
- Church of Sant Esteve de Cervelló
- Monastery of Santes Creus
- Church of Terrassa
- Vallbona de les Monges
- Settlement in Girona
- Romanesque church in Sant Pere d’Àger
Archway of Centelles, after the restoration
Lantern tower of the monastery in Vallbona de les Monges during it restoration
Restoration of the church of Terrassa
Photographs from the book L’obra realitzada: anys 1914-1923 / Mancomunitat de Catalunya (Works performed: Years 1914-23 / Mancomunitat of Catalonia)
Author: Mancomunitat of Catalonia
Year of publication: 1923
The Maps and Topographic Service put together a geographical map of Catalonia in the 20’s, at a scale of 1:100.000. Additionally, their agricultural map was unique in providing Catalan agriculture with a tool for economic and political betterment.
Institute of Theatre
It was created in 1913 under the name of Dramatic Arts School of Catalonia (ECAD). It was a part of the Conservatori del Liceu, and it was one of Enric Prat de la Riba’s first cultural initiatives as president of the Diputació of Barcelona. Its goal was to articulate a platform for the teaching, research, creation, and spreading of the performing arts.
In 1915, the School became an independent organization through a foundation created by the Diputació. Two years later, the Barcelona Town Hall joined the foundation as well. All through 2017, ECAD published the La Gaseta Catalana d’Art Dramàtic (Catalan Performing Arts Gazette).
In 1920, the Mancomunitat of Catalonia took over the Diputació de Barcelona in the foundation for the Dramatic Arts School of Catalonia.
In 1923, the School became reenergized by the addition of the Museum of Theatre, Dance, and Music belonging to the Barcelona City Hall, and with the incorporation of scenography studies and the publications of the Theatre’s works.
When the Mancomunitat was dismantled in 1927, ECAD became the Institut del Teatre (School of Theatre).
Catalonia’s Weather Service
The Catalonia’s Weather Service was created on March 31st, 1921 by the Permanent Council of the Mancomunitat. It depended on the science department of the Institute for Catalan Studies, and the Mancomunitat managed its expenses and facilities.
The Weather Service’s headquarters were located on the top floor in the building with the clock of the Technical School. It gathered and processed data collected by observers, by the Spanish government, and by international organizations. Its initial goals were to study the weather in Catalonia and to maintain ties with the World Meteorological Organization in order to follow international standards.
From 1922 on, it issued daily weather reports broadcast from public buildings and the Mancomunitat’s regional offices scattered all over the territory. On the other hand, and for as long as it was in operation, it advanced the study of meteorology in Catalonia, thanks to which it garnered international prestige.
Law Studies Office
It was planned by Enric Prat de la Riba, and was finally built on July 1918. However, it would not be established until Puig i Cadafalch became president of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia.
Its mission was to codify the rules that make up the Catalan law system. It also acted as a cabinet that advised the president of the Council of the Mancomunitat, and it was in charge of issuing all kinds of legal rulings. With the coup d’état by Primo de Rivera, this institution was abolished on July 1924—six years after it began its operations.