Its origins are traced back at the Nautical School in Barcelona, when a small museum and a specialized library were founded in 1929. In October 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, the institution was formally established as Museu Marítim de Catalunya, hosted at the Drassanes Reials (a medieval and early modern Royal Shipyard). In 1941, under Francoism, it was renamed as Museo Marítimo de Barcelona. Since 1929 the institution has collected all kind of artefacts and documents linked with the Spanish maritime history, focusing on Catalan maritime tradition and merchant marine; naval history holds a secondary in the collections.
This institution preserves a rich collection of documents of different kinds. Nowadays, the sources are divided in two different blocks housed under one Department: the Colecciones (Collections), i.e. an extensive sample of private documents on the life of seafarers, ship owners, ships and so on, collected from different origins) and the Fons Historics (i.e. the Historical Archive), that gathers archives of shipping companies, private people and institutions like the Barcelona Port Authority.
The series COLLECTIONS contains multiple collections of documents gathered along the years: certificates, full curriculum of masters and mates, logbooks, accounts, bills of lading, nautical charts, etc., and some rare and interesting books called “Libro de cuenta y razón”, which contain agreements and details of the payment to the crew. Collections consist of approximately 3.346 registers in 120 standard boxes and 18 special-sized boxes. The oldest document dates back in the 13th century, but most of the collections come for the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The series HISTORICAL ARCHIVES preserves archives of shipping companies (Linea de Vapores Tintoré, Compañía Trasatlántica Española), ship repairing companies (Talleres Nuevo Vulcano, Proname), institutions (Barcelona Port Authority, Estibarna) and private records. As it is frequent, archives are preserved partially. At present the historial archive contains around 6.839 boxes, or 839 linear meters of folders. For the purposes of the SeaLiT projects an array of different archival sources, preserved in the Museu Marítim de Barcelona, was examined.