Expecting to use the three-gallery pass we’d purchased, it was off to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza today. We were surprised to discover it was a free admission day. Turned off by the long lines and crowded lobby. we decided to head up the street to another venue instead.
I’d read about the National Library of Spain offering free tours of its archives (first edition of Cervantes’ Don Quixote...) and since we’ve never toured such a place found it to be of interest.
Unfortunately we arrived too late to join a group and were thus limited to seeing only a small exhibition hall. It was actually very interesting to a communications geek like me.
The exhibit covered the evolution of writing platforms and tools from stone, leather and papyrus to the Chinese introduction of paper and subsequent refinements.
Examples of various forms of the written word were displayed too. From examples of ancient script in the world’s diverse languages, to the gorgeously illustrated manuscripts produced in monasteries, through to the invention of the letterpress, including embossed lettering used pre-Braille, were included.
I got a real kick out of the extent of the timeline-oriented archives; such formality around the first Mac desktop computer, a Bic pen in a backlit showcase, and in the context of mass dissemination of words, records, reel-to-reel, cassettes, 8-tracks, video disks and even the huge drum-like discs I’d used in the 80’s to back up early word processors.
Hoping to get into the library building for a look about the magnificent building we tried the non-museum entrance. Rats, it’s not a public library at all. We were again warmly encouraged to come another day for a tour.
The building looks gorgeous and the archives would be really special, so we would indeed go back had I not asked that one critical question “Do you do the tour in English?”. Unfortunately, not.
So, with much of the afternoon ahead of us, we returned to the Thyssen.
Once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection, it is hard to fathom that the Baron, followed by his son and daughter-in-law, only started collecting in 1920. Such masterpieces must have been hideously expensive to acquire even then.
Since the family collection of 715 was first donated/loaned to the Spanish people in the late 1980s it has grown through government acquisitions and further family contributions to over 1,600 paintings.
We were only able to get through two floors before it closed. It’s nice to know we have that ticket in our pocket and can to go back when we transit thru Madrid in December our way home.