History of the Museum

First Steps

The Arms Museum of Eibar, together with the Armoury School, was an idea put forward by a group of Eibar notables at the beginning of the XX century. With a view to boosting the arms industry, these visionaries had detected the need for a centre where future workers could receive training on the theoretical and practical foundations of the trade as well as becoming acquainted with the latest technological developments in the field. They also saw the need for a Museum, which would fulfil an educational role and reflect the advances made in the industry by the manufacturers in Eibar.

This idea led to trips to Barcelona, Berlin... and it was the councillor Pedro Goenaga who, attending a Firing Range Congress in Liège, learned about the experience of the École d`Armurerie, and saw in it the model best suited to the requirements of the Eibar arms manufacturers.

The Museum and the new building for the Armoury School were officially inaugurated on the 24th June 1914. At about the same time the first catalogue was published: Inauguration of the Arms Museum of the Town of Eibar.

The Arms Museum boasted a collection of some 580 pieces, among small-arms and larger items, and also six examples of steel weapons, all donated by local manufacturers, the Firing Range, the Ministry of War as it was then known, and local citizens. In the same room the work of pupils of the provisional Armoury School was exhibited.

The collection was subsequently expanded with samples of arms that were made in Eibar for the Great War, obtained by Julián Echeverria, the first Director of the Armoury School. Unfortunately, there is no record of these additions to the collection as it was sacked before any record could be made. In 1936 a sample of the collection was sent to Paris for the International Arms Contest, but the outbreak of the Civil War prevented the arms from returning to their place of origin.

Post-war

In 1960, following the aftermath of the war and the years of reconstruction, the state of the museum was pitiful. The collection had been decimated. The most valuable pieces had disappeared, and most of those remaining had been withdrawn, except for a small number which had been laid out in display cabinets to await new developments. These materialised when the Director of the Centre, José Ormaechea, oversaw the reforms and expansion of the Armoury School.

In October 1961, Ormaechea held a meeting with former arms manufacturers in order to set up a commission that would undertake the reorganisation and expansion of the Arms Museum. At this first vital meeting, the Director sought help from those present for the ambitious project to turn the Arms Museum into one of the most comprehensive collections in the country, tracing missing arms and looking for new additions. Approval was unanimous, and the commission was appointed as follows: President: Eulogio Gárate, Secretary: Jerónimo Echeverria, Members: Pacianl Arosa, Jesus Charola, José Echeverria, Vicente Baroja, Manuel Iturricastillo, José Ormaechea.

Initially, letters were sent to various regiments and artillery bases asking for antique arms together with information concerning their background and origin. After visits from the commission, several arms manufacturers pledged their support and agreed to do research into the various processes involved in the manufacture of antique arms. The collection expanded, with new display cabinets and restored arms that had been withdrawn years earlier together with photographs of antique arms. Correspondence with the Ministry of Defence and the Army also played an important part in the expansion of the collection.

José de Uria played a vital role in recovering the 43 pieces which, having been sent to Paris for the International Arms Contest in 1936, could not then find their way back to Eibar due to the difficulties that arose with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Renewed Efforts 1962 - 1984

Around 1962, the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the centre provided the stimulus for the Arms Manufacturers Commission and the Board of Directors of the School to try to consolidate the Museum. The commission was joined by the Director of the Firing Range, Carlos Ruiz, who prolonged the support of his predecessor, José Junquera Quintía.

The commission contacted the leading Armouries in Spain with a request for antique arms, and received valuable information and offers in return. They also initiated correspondence with various heads of state of the time: Hassan of Morocco, President Burguiba of Tunisia, Kasen of Iraq, President Nasser of Egypt, Hussein of Jordan, etc.

Armas Bost, Victor Sarasqueta, Star Bonifacio Echeverria, Astra Unceta and C, Gabilondo, etc - all local arms manufacturers - donated samples of their latest products. The King of Saudi Arabia also contributed to the collection with the donation of four rifles. Thus, after four years of intense activity the museum was organised.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary a second catalogue was published, containing various articles related to arms as well as a thorough inventory and description of the arms that made up the collection.

Since then, a large number of dignitaries have visited the museum.

With stocks of the 1914 and 1964 catalogues exhausted, a new edition was published in 1984. Juan Luis Calvo, expert on antique arms, Juan San Martin, who wrote the prologue, Ramiro Larrañaga, researcher of the history of arms, Antonio Aguirresabe, author for the photographs, fall contributed to the publication. The catalogue was funded by the Provincial Government of Guipuzcoa.

Looking to the Future

The Museum was housed in the Armoury School, which undertook the custody and management of the collection, until the year 2000, at which point it was transferred to the municipal authorities. This transfer gave rise to the exhibition, entitled "Armian Animia", which was displayed in the exhibition room of Portalea in December of the same year and was a resounding success.

The collection is currently the main theme of the Arms Industry Museum and is located on the fifth floor of the Portalea building.

The Museum opened its doors on the 18th of January 2007 with the inauguration of the arms display. The rest of the exhibition area that currently makes up the museum opened to the public on the 13th of May 2009.

The Arms Industry Museum, locally run and located on the fifth floor of the Portalea cultural centre, occupies a total of 1,200 square metres, 1,000 of which are used for the display area. The building is a former arms factory and is situated in the heart of the town. The impressive collection of weaponry and the wide range of products manufactured in Eibar (bicycles, motorcycles, sewing machines) constitute the core of the Museum. The main aim of the museum is to preserve the town?s historic memory and to show the industrial heritage of an area intrinsically linked to the fabrication of arms, offering visitors an insight into the industrial evolution of the town from the 14th century up to the present day.

History of the Eibar Arms Industry Museum