Ernesto Manzanedo, director of the Museum of Pottery of Paterna
Paterna is one of the Valencian villages of bigger pottery tradition. Its Museum of Pottery is already more than three decades old and the number of visitors has been increasing progressively, as its manager, Ernesto Manzanedo, points out.
In 2015 the museum turns 35 years old. What challenges do you pose for this year and for the following?
It might seem an atypical year for municipal elections and for the change of term but we are going to keep on with the same work dynamics, scheduling casual exhibitions and advancing in the documentation and inventory of our funds. We hope to consolidate, looking to the future and to the 40th anniversary, a line of work that goes deeply into the knowledge on the part of our visitors and fellow citizens of the rich heritage that belongs to them and that we guard.
What would you highlight about your career in charge of the institution?
Since 2008, when I acceded to this position, we started to work in feasible improvements. We started with the computerization of the funds and with the cataloguing of those that were left to catalogue; an arduous job that requires a lot of time and that by definition is never complete. We also started the adaptation of the rooms for the new needs that visitors demanded and we installed various screens where we project documentaries. Interns and undergraduates doing internships are very helpful for us to achieve the challenges we posed. The museum has evolved thinking about the new needs of society, creating new activities and dynamics.
Could you anticipate some of the exhibition programme for 2015?
We plan on holding two new exhibitions. One of them will deal with Muslim epigraphy, present in dozens of pieces. The other exhibition, as we have found tons of burials in the different necropolis excavated in Paterna, will show a review throughout the centuries of how our ancestors felt death and how they prepared for it, both from the Muslim religion and the Christian religion.
The pieces you exhibit have come out from the subsoil of the town, thanks to the excavations of the Archaeological Service. Is there now any excavations going on or any interesting project in this respect?
Current times are not favourable for archaeological interventions in urban environments as these are fundamentally linked to construction and this, as we all know, is practically paralysed. However, the projects are still there, as the one we have suggested for the restoration of La Torre, although we are waiting for the granting of a ministerial subsidy to be able to carry it out.
Has the number of visitors increased?
The number of visitors has not only been kept but it has also shown a progressive increase. During 2013, the last year that we have data of, we went past eight thousand, which for a local museum of just one area these are important figures. Social networks are being a nice complement. People, I must say, gets surprised with the pieces that a local museum, with the means it has, amasses and exhibits to them.
The potter trade has been disappearing. How do you see the future of traditional Valencian pottery?
Unfortunately, the last potter in town, Francisco Giner, retired a few years ago, disappearing with him a centenary tradition. Still, in his house some people keep making “socarrats” and other pieces on demand. We must stress the efforts of the Craftsmanship Centre of the Valencian Community and of other public and private organisms, so that, not only this trade, but all of those that in one way or another are in risk of disappearing, do not end up on the scrap heap of history and professionals and craftsmen keep getting trained.
Paterna has a great pottery tradition. In fact, you exhibit very antique pieces, of Roman Age, and especially Medieval. Could you give us a quick review of the history of pottery of the town?
It goes back to the Bronze Age, with the site of the “Lloma de Betxí”. The Iberian Age is also represented, as well as the Roman and the Visigothic moments, both in the recent discovery of a Roman villa, and, as you said, the pottery of the town was at its peak in the Medieval Age, both in the Islamic period and in the Christian. Especially during this last one, and more specifically during the low Medieval stage, is when Paterna will export its productions of decorated pottery fundamentally throughout the whole Mediterranean arch.