The exhibition “The archaeology of memory: the mass graves of Paterna” explores the story of the graves of the Franco regime from an archaeological perspective. It is a case study of a particular site: the municipal cemetery of Paterna, where more than 150 graves are documented and at least 2,237 people were murdered by the dictatorship between 1939 and 1956.
The exhibition has three main objectives. The first is to underline the contributions of various scientific disciplines to the study, and more specifically of the technical teams that are carrying out the exhumations, identifying the victims, and recovering their life histories. The second is to pay public tribute to the victims of repression and their families, as well as the groups and individuals who, for decades, have fought to defend their memory. And the third is to establish a dialogue with society about the need for public policies on memory, since the violation of human rights is an issue that should concern us all.
The project is based on material culture – that is, both the evidence exhumed in the graves and the personal belongings kept by the victims’ families in their homes. This material culture is used to narrate the life stories of the murdered and to discuss the mechanisms of repression of the dictatorship, and also to examine the role that these objects have today in the construction of democratic memory. In this way, the exhibition establishes a dialogue between the past and the present.
“The archaeology of memory: the mass graves of Paterna” invites us to reflect on our traumatic recent past, and to think about the scenarios of coexistence that, as a democratic society, we would like to build for the future.
The main exhibition inside the museum building is complemented by a display in the courtyard which shows how the process of exhumation of the mass graves has been depicted in newspapers, comics and illustrated books.
Both the theme and the materials that comprise the exhibition are particularly sensitive. This is especially true of the personal belongings of the victims. Nothing has been placed on display without the consent of the families, and the same is true of the stories and experiences that the exhibition narrates. “The archaeology of memory” takes great care to avoid the risks of sensationalism or trivialization by providing a strong scientific contextualization and treating the exhibits with the utmost respect at all times.
Once again, we express our gratitude to each and every one of the people, families and associations that have participated and have accompanied us in this project.
Organization and production of the exhibition project: Museu de Prehistòria de València
Curators: Andrea Moreno Martín, Tono Vizcaíno Estevan, Eloy Ariza Jiménez et Miguel Mezquida Fernández
Architectural designers: Rosa Bou et Kumi Furió - Limoestudio
Exhibition room photographs: Gala Font de Mora