The theme of the permanent exhibition, which is the most extensive and the foundation of the museum, is the 1939 Republican exile, its antecedents and its most immediate repercussions. Prepared for highly diverse publics, this exhibition offers visitors different levels of interpretation allowing greater or lesser interpretative complexity while never abandoning scientific rigour, recognising of course that this must not be at odds with accessibility. Thus, the audiovisual resources and the different display methods have been fused with more traditional forms, such as explanatory panels or the exhibition of original documents of great historical interest.
In terms of contents, the museum project, written by the historians Enric Pujol and Jaume Santaló and designed by the set designer Ignasi Cristià, has a permanent exhibition divided into five different sections:
- Exile: Past and Present
Throughout history, many people, whether individually or as a group, have found themselves forced to abandon their country of nationality and/or residence for ethnic, religious and national reasons, for belonging to a determined social group or for defending certain political opinions. They are known as refugees, expatriates, exiles, the emigrated (though not emigrants). Political migrations have been and, unfortunately still are today, a constant in the history of humanity.
Since the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, we have had documentary records of exiles of many kinds that affected Jews, Protestants and Moriscos in the 16th and 17th centuries, Austracists and Jesuits in the 18th century, French supporters, liberals, Carlists and Progressivists in the 19th and early 20th centuries until arriving at the 1939 Republican exile, considered the exile par excellence. Its size – around half a million people are estimated to have originally crossed the French border –, its sociological composition involving a high number of intellectuals, the active association life of these exiles in the host countries, especially France and Mexico, and its length made it a unique phenomenon in the history of the Spanish State and, particularly, of Catalonia. However, the Republican exile did not end in 1939. The political and police repression throughout the Franco dictatorship meant, over almost four decades, the forced exit from the country of people, most linked to the anti-Franco fight, who came to fear for their life in Spanish territory.
As noted, political migrations have been and are a constant in the history of humanity. The end of the Second World War meant a before and after in the diplomatic protection of refugees. In 1950, five years after the end of the war in
ACNUR was created with a mandate of three years, a temporary period considered enough to resolve that humanitarian crisis. Although with time the nature of the conflicts and tensions have changed, ACNUR continues working today, almost six decades after its creation, helping millions of people who, thanks to its intervention and protection, have been able to begin a new life in another State.