The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona was established in the mid-nineteenth century as a Provincial Museum, making it the oldest in its speciality in Catalonia. Over time, it has become the most important centre for the recovery, preservation, investigation and dissemination of the heritage of the Roman city of Tarraco and its area of influence.
The historical and monumental importance of Tarraco and the challenges caused by its location within modern Tarragona have led the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona to focus its research programmes on the investigation, preservation and dissemination of the Roman world, the Romanisation of the Iberian Peninsula and Tarraco’s role as the capital of one of the largest provinces in the Roman Empire.
The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona has always explored programmatic formulas. They are aimed at strengthening the complementarity of the objects held by the institution and the architectural remains of ancient Tarraco that have been preserved in the city and its surrounding area.
The current structure of the MNAT is in keeping with this vocation. In addition to the Archaeological Museum, the MNAT is responsible for the Early Christian Museum and Necropolis and the Roman villas of Els Munts (Altafulla) and Centcelles (Constantí). Its organisational structure also includes the well-known Arch of Berà and Scipios’ Tower monuments, which are located on the route of the Via Augusta, and the Roman Theatre, which is currently being restored.
Based on these sites, the MNAT aims to develop a discourse that will deal with a series of complementary themes:
- The organisation and social life of a Roman city such as Tarraco (the content of the Archaeological Museum's permanent exhibition).
- The world of death in classical antiquity (exemplified by the Early Christian Museum and Necropolis).
- The structure, functioning and life in an Early Roman villa related to the governing elites of Tarraco (focusing on the Roman villa of Els Munts).
- The construction of a large Late Roman villa (focusing on the Roman villa of Centcelles).
- The roads and their monuments (using an honorary arch –the Arc de Berà– and a funerary monument – Torre dels Escipions– as examples).
- The city and public spectacles (exemplified by the Roman Theatre complex).