Museo Etnografico Piedad Isla

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Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2019

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We recently spent 10 days in Northern Spain, a couple of which was spent, staying at the Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga.

Visiting and walking around the nearby town of Cervera, about a couple of minutes drive from the Parador, we came across a really interesting museum in the Plaza de la Cruz
The Piedad Isla Ethnographic Museum, the 16th century home of the photographer, Piedad Isla.

Piedad, was born on the 6th September 1926 and died 6th November 2009. She was a Spanish photographer and ethnologist who throughout her career documented the life of her region in the Palentine mountain area. She was aware of a way of life that was rapidly transforming and many customs were being abandoned. So, travelling on a Vespa scooter, and with a deep curiosity, she was determined to capture and compile the history and way of life in photographs. Her work as a photographer allowed her direct contact in the 1950’s and 60’s with life forms which today, have disappeared.

Her real inspiration was the human condition, the cult of the elderly, respect for the earth and adoration for children.

The museum house was opened in 1980 and life from the Spanish postwar society can be seen through 2,000 objects which include coins, letters, documents, clothes, furniture and a lot of utensils. In addition there is a photographic archive with about 165,000 negatives that portray the life in the rugged valleys of the Palencia mountain.
In 2000, the Piedad Isla & Juan Torres Cultural and Assistance Foundation was created. It undertook the digitalization of its large photographic archive to preserve it for future generations.

When we entered the museum we were greeted by a young female who spent a while informing us of the house/museum came about and the type of things which were on view. Instantaneously, you step into the past and a large map is on display just inside the doorway showing 60 towns in the area where Piedad visited to take photographs. We were told that once the Spanish Civil War ended, people were required to have their photographs taken.

Not far from the entrance is a picture of ‘El Abuelo,’ a giant oak tree said to be 500 years old. This can be found in Vanes, not too much of a distance from Cevera.

Another interesting picture portrays an old house thought to be where ‘inquisitions’ took place, named Casa de la Inglies.

I found a 2 hole mousetrap quite intriguing! The owner’s father was a stone mason and on display was a timber book with a hand print which was signed.

For people wanting to visit, the museum opens its doors during Holy Week and then every weekend until summer. In July, August and September it is open every day except Mondays, from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 8 pm. Until the end of the year it is open weekends and holidays.

Price for adults is 2 euros, for groups of 1.5 euros and for schools 1 euro per person.

This museum certainly reflects past life in this rural area of Spain, to interest not only the more mature traveller, but an interesting learning curve for the younger generation.

Caroline Hutchings

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