Monday, March 3, 2014

Marijuana Museum in Barcelona: Is the Collection Outshone by Its Context?

Recently I visited the Hemp Museum, formerly known as Palau Mornau, here in Barcelona. Believe it or not, I was keen to see this building more for its architecture and ironwork than for its famous cannabis-related collection. Having said that, its collection of antique pipes, bongs, historical propoganda, and virtually anything else one can think of related to marijuana was impressive, thorough, and extremely well displayed.

Still, in my humble opinion, the real show stopper there was the building itself, which is a modernist gem full of opulent flourishes, from the grand, stained-glass skylight in the main gallery to the intricate iron work throughout.

Quite simply, the Hemp Museum is the kind of building that makes me catch my breath and wish I had been born really, really rich.
Interior staircase of Hemp Museum (Palau Mornau), Barcelona, Spain.
In person, this stained glass skylight is very impressive!

On that subject, it seems some of Palau Mornau's previous owners were not always  rich enough. Built in the 16th century, the palace had fallen into disrepair by the turn of the 20th century. It was restored to its current brilliance and opened to the public as the Hemp Museum Gallery, thanks to Ben Donkers, a rich hemp industrialist who just so happens to be the founder of the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum of Amsterdam.

The museum here in Barcelona is the largest of its kind in the world. It´s objective is to teach visitors about the history and utility of the cannabis plant, from the time it was first cultivated by humans nearly 10,000 years ago to the present day.

Believe you me, there are many attributes of the marijuana plant that have gone unsung. For example, did you know that hemp was used in the construction of the Santa Maria? Yes, that Santa Maria, one of the very boats Columbus used to sail from Spain to the Americas!

That is just one of many facts over which museum goers may marvel. But this post is not about that. I´m going to write a second post about the marijuana plant and hemp because, well, thanks to Mr. Donkers, I recently discovered the subject is pretty darn interesting.

For now, let´s stick to the palace. In my opinion, it is outstanding for its architecture. What´s your opinion? Is Palau Mornau more notable for its hemp collection or its hemp collection´s context?

Check out the pics below and let me know what you think. Don´t worry, there a plenty of marijuana related pics for you hard core fans.

Anti-drugs propoganda poster, Hemp Museum, Barcelona, Spain