Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu


Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu

Case Study Contents

1. Ecomuseum Data

Ecomuseum Name

Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu

Date of Creation



Carrer del Camp, 22-24, 25580 Esterri d'Àneu, Lleida


+34 973 62 64 36

1.1. Description of the Ecomuseum

The Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu was one of the first museological experiences of its kind in Spain. The gestation moment of this initiative can be traced back to 1969. Two years later, in the context of socio-cultural movement, the town council managed to acquire the Closeta de Gassia estate, the current nucleus and headquarters of the ecomuseum. Together with the surrounding land, this constituted a group of Pallaresan houses. Firstly, the aim was to build a school, but this was not carried out. The group of properties remained unused, which led the town council to put it up for sale in 1979.

The destiny of this heritage complex changed in 1983, the year in which the Cultural Council of Valls d’Àneu was created with the idea of promoting and developing the culture and heritage of this territory. This entity was chaired by a cultural manager and had the support of local administrations. In this sense, the Arxiu Històric de les Valls d’Àneu was created in 1985 and, two years later, the Escola de Natura-Camp d’Aprenentatge. In the same year, 1987, the first ecomuseum project was drawn up, subsidised by the Generalitat de Catalunya and with the support of the four town councils that make up the Valls d’Àneu of the Pallars Sobirà region (Alt Àneu, Espot, Esterri d’Àneu and Guinegueta d’Àneu). This county covers an area of 407 square kilometres and in the 1980s and 1990s had around 1,300 inhabitants, distributed among twenty-four villages at an altitude of between 900 and 1,400 metres above sea level. the 1980s and 1990s had around 1,300 inhabitants, distributed among twenty-four villages at an altitude of between 900 and 1,400 metres above sea level.

The first project had a strong academic accent in a sense that made it somehow idealistic but with a contemporary outlook. However, its economic sustainement was not feasible. Local reality could be based on this vision, but it needed a territorial dimension, something applicable to a local reality. The definitive impulse to the project came in 1988, with the celebration of the Anthropology and Cultural Heritage symposium, where a group for the promotion and research of local heritage was formed at the University of Lleida. In 1991, the Cultural Council of Valls d’Àneu commissioned the final plan for the ecomuseum to two anthropologists from this group at the University of Lleida, Xavier Roigé and Llorenç Prats.

The second project was reformulated in order to include the training of guides from the area, encouraging the transmission of knowledge to the younger generations; the setting up of a farm that would be a new extension of the ecomuseum; the improvement of the headquarters, including a revision of the exhibition and a shop; and strengthening the extensions of the original Ecomuseum that had already taken the name of radials. The new project had to go beyond a simple heritage recovery, it had to go as far as the constitution of an economically viable and self-manageable entity.The first activity that gave life to the ecomuseum was held in 199. It consisted in an inaugural exhibition, under the title: “L’Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu: la Identitat d’un territorio” (The Ecomuseum of the Valls d’Àneu: the Identity of a territory). The exhibition was structured in three sections, (1) Man, territory and time; (2) Integral heritage; and (3) Dissemination, getting to know the Valls d’Àneu. It was a presentation to the community of the social and territorial dimension of the ecomuseum project. In 1993, the first phase was inaugurated, in which the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the Gassia d’Esterri house, the recovery of the hydraulic sawmill of Alós, the church of Isil, and the programming of various itineraries were presented.

Officially, the ecomuseum opened its doors in 1994. In this year, its managing body was created: the Consortium and Board of Trustees of the Ecomuseum, made up of four town councils, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, the University of Lleida and the Cultural Council of Valls d’Àneu. This formula allowed them, and still allows them, on the one hand, to have cohesion between different entities of the region and, on the other hand, budgetary and action autonomy, something fundamental to be able to establish links with the population and the territory.

The ecomuseum was formulated with a centralised model with its headquarters located in an 18th century building, the Casa Gassia in Esterri d’Àneu. It acts as a museum representing the socio-economic life of the region, and serves as a visitor reception centre and a place of management and administration. It has a series of radials (antennae), which complete and structure the territory :

  • The Casa Gassia in Esterri d’Àneu, a museum house dating back to the 18th century, is located in the heart of the old quarter of the town. It is an example of a farmhouse, representative of the basis of the local economy. It maintains its original structure and shows the ways of family life and domestic space. Together with the house, they have been conserved, museographed and converted into multi-purpose spaces: shop, music school and warehouse . In addition, the Itinerari Urbà d’Esterri d’Àneu (Urban Itinerary of Esterri d’Àneu) has been developed inside the village with explanatory panels.
  • The Alós sawmill, where the world of forestry exploitation is explained and where the heritage derived from the exile to France during the Civil War and Franco’s regime has recently been put to good use.
  • The Conjunt Monumental de Son, formed by the church of Saints Just and Pastor, the Lombard bell tower, the cemetery and the clock tower. Inside you can see the altarpiece, a work of Lleida Gothic art by Pedro Espallargues.
  • Ecclesiastical heritage, such as the Monastery of Sant Pere del Burgal, Sant Joan d’Isil, Sant Julià d’Unarre, Sant Pere de Burgal and Santa Maria d’Àneu.
  • La Formatgeria de la Roseta de Gavàs. This cheese factory is a global project for the production of local cheeses where the whole process is carried out by the same entity: raising the cattle, making the cheese and selling it.
  • The bunker routes of the Guingueta d’Àneu. Along with the paths of exile, fortified structures from the period of the Civil War and Franco’s regime have been recovered and serve as elements to show the evolution of the landscape and to link other parts of the Pyrenees, as these constructions were built all along the Pyrenees mountain range.

These radials are essential for the dynamisation to be carried out by the ecomuseum, above all, to establish connections with the needs of the population and the different groups: livestock farmers, the tourist sector, the national park, etc. Recently, their scope of action has been extended to other facilities and heritage resources. The scarcity of human and financial resources prevents them from being able to directly manage other heritage resources and spaces, but they give support and backing to institutional and citizen initiatives. Among the latter is the declaration of the “Fallas del Pirineo” as Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The ecomuseum is currently registered in the Register of Museums of the Generalitat de Catalunya, was one of the antennae of the Observatory for Ethnological Research in Catalonia and of the Centre for the Promotion of Catalan Popular and Traditional Culture, It is a member of the Network of Ethnology Museums of Catalonia, the Institute for the Development and Promotion of the Alt Pirineu and Aran (IDAPA), the Network of Museums and Heritage Facilities of the Alt Pirineu and Aran, and the Network of Museums of the Terres de Lleida and Aran.

The Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu has been nominated for and won various prizes and awards. In 1995 it won the National Prize for Popular Culture, awarded by the Department of Culture of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 1998 it was nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award. In 1999 he was awarded the Ministry of the Environment Prize for his contribution to the conservation of protected natural areas in Spain. In 2002 he received a special mention from the Jury of the VI Pirineu Literary Narrative Prize, for his work in disseminating Pyrenean culture in Pallars Sobirà, and for his collaboration and participation in all media to make it known. In 2005 it was a candidate for the museology prizes, awarded by the Catalan Museology Association, in the category dedicated to projects, exhibitions, experiences and activities and institutions, for the implementation of a heritage and museum project of decisive action in the territory where it is located, for its singularity and the transcendence of its action; a museum framed in its environment that allows to relate monumental, natural, ethnographic elements with the landscape in which they are inscribed. In 2010 it was awarded the extraordinary prize for museology by the Associació de Museòlegs de Catalunya. It was nominated as one of the wonders of the Pyrenees, as part of an initiative promoted and developed by the Capital of Catalan Culture Organisation and Catalonia Radio to select the 7 wonders of the Material Cultural Heritage of Catalonia, from among 100 proposals that aspired to become a wonder of Catalonia, selected by popular vote at the beginning of 2007.

The Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu was born under the direct influence of French ecomuseums. Strategically, and after twenty-five years of activity, the ecomuseum goes beyond the presentation of a heritage, it aims to achieve a dynamic to become a continuous observer of the territory, capable of participating in local and global projects, working the local from the global. At present, its strategic line is to become a “space of proximity” with a “capacity for self-management”, and not to depend solely on the municipality.

1.2. Members of the Ecomuseum

Name of the person in charge
  • Jordi Abella. Director (
  • Cristina. Heritage Interpretation, guided (
  • Josep. Technical part (
  • Marc. Technician, administration (
  • Ignasi. Research (
Number of ecomuseum team members

5 people hired: 1 director and 4 technicians. Throughout the year, between 89 temporary contracts are carried out.

Qualification/training of team members

The members and collaborators of the ecomuseum have the following background:

  • Museology.
  • Archaeology.
  • Anthropology / ethnography.
  • Heritage Interpretation.
  • Musicology.
  • History.


Throughout the ecomuseum’s long history, courses, conferences and training workshops have been held. Some of these actions have been carried out in the ecomuseum’s own facilities and others in collaboration with the University of Lleida, on its campus. As can be seen in the table below, the training has been aimed at three areas: (1) tourism sector, (2) museology and heritage, (3) management of heritage resources and spaces. In the tourism sector, training actions have been carried out aimed at training guides and heritage interpreters and the management of audiences. As for museology and heritage, they have focused on generating reflections and debates for the future of the sector. Finally, training in heritage and museums specialised in the management and direction of heritage spaces with the aim of professionalising the sector.

In terms of training needs. The ecomuseum is aware that it has shortcomings and needs training in areas such as: management and administration (financial resources, accounting, etc.); use of new technologies to be able to explore new ways of communication and financing, as well as to generate new products; management of oral memory and social skills to communicate with the communities; and accessibility policies.

Some Examples of Training offered by the Ecomuseum

Heritage Interpretation.Specialised course in heritage interpretation methodologies for guiding groups of visitors and tourists. It is offered for the staff of the ecomuseum and for professionals and companies in the tourism sector.XX
Security and visitor managementCourse focused on training in the management of tourism in heritage sites. It is offered for the staff of the ecomuseum and for professionals and companies in the tourism sector.XX
Strategic museum managementCourse held in conjunction with the University of Lleida for professionals, academics, researchers and students.XX

Some Examples of Training Needs Identified

ManagementAdministration and management of entities, accounting, etc.On-siteX
New technologiesUse of technological tools to generate new processes and products.On-siteX
Memory managementTraining to apply knowledge of oral and collective memory to have an impact on the presentOn-siteXX
AccessibilityHeritage interpretation, new products, special needs, cultural diversity, etc.On-siteXX

3. Funding and Resources

Type of entity
Official status
Annual budget
250.000 €.

Funding for the ecomuseum comes from different sources:

  • Consortium and Board of Trustees. The entity to which the ecomuseum belongs contributes 40.000 approximately euros.
  • Own resources. The sale of tickets, shop products and other actions produce about 60.00 euros.
  • Grants and research projects. The ecomuseum is able to apply, either individually or with various partners, for research projects and grants that bring in around 80.000 euros per year. The ecomuseum works on numerous local, national and international projects. Some of them are: the PATRIM+ project dealing with cross-border heritage.
  • Technical consultancy. Finally, the ecomuseum has positioned itself as a strategic enclave for research and technical consultancy in the territory and beyond. This has allowed it to be commissioned by other entities for specific studies in the field of local history, ethnography, biodiversity, etc. The rest of the ecomuseum’s funding is derived from this work.

The funding they generate has allowed them to act with freedom of action. It has allowed them not to have any institutional or political imposition. By not requesting funding, they do not generate problems. Being a Consortium has been essential for this formula for attracting resources, as it allows them to have the capacity for self-management and not to be dependent on a municipality. The process of municipalisation would mean a decrease in fundraising, since economically and from a planning point of view, the Ecomuseum would depend on the budgets of the municipality which would take over its organisation. The Consortium allows them to have a wider dimension to be able to act in the territory, in the different communities and when applying for grants, subsidies and projects.

4. Social and Community Participation

Since the mid-20th century, the subsistence farming system based on agriculture and the exploitation of forests and pastures has been replaced by salaried work in the hydroelectric plants and by a market economy focused on winter tourism, which has led to constant changes in the local population and in the flow of people, visitors and tourists from outside the region. Despite these changes, the territory has historically suffered from demographic imbalances, an identity crisis caused by the continuous changes in the socio-economic environment, and a loss of population migrating to urban centres.

This panorama has made the territory in which the ecomuseum works a space with a complex diversity of communities. The ecomuseum understands the community(ies) as a spider’s web where debates, synergies and conflicts are generated and within this conviction the objective. What the ecomuseum does is to promote local reflection and debate with the aim of providing different positions and models for the future. From their point of view, and within the complexity of relationships and the multidiversity of communities and collectives, they have the advantage of proximity, that is to say, they are also neighbours.

The ecomuseum works fundamentally as an entity of proximity, trying to generate synergies and networks between agents and with the population itself. In recent years it has positioned itself as the museological entity of reference in the area, providing technical support to smaller local museums that lack services: conservation, restoration, training, etc.; it is the nerve centre for local debates between groups: livestock farmers, ecologists, tourism sector; it functions as a receiving entity for the concerns of the population: music school, support in non-formal education, proposal of exhibitions and local research, donation of heritage assets, etc..;

The ecomuseum’s topicality lies in its involvement with the different actors of the population. On the one hand, the different associations of the territory find a space in the ecomuseum where they can participate in a bidirectional way. On the other hand, each action generated by the ecomuseum is developed with the economic sectors that could be involved, which means that an action does not become an isolated activity, but rather an element of the social dynamic.

4.1. Local Population

Number of inhabitants of the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
1. 400 inhabitants in the valley and the region, and 700 inhabitants in the municipality of Esterri d’Àneu.

Ways of participation

The ecomuseum considers that there are three groups of members in the community according to their connection to the ecomuseum:

  1. Passive. Those who do not carry out any action or activity with the ecomuseum. This could be recorded as the non-audience or non-actors.
  2. Users. This is the population that usually visits the ecomuseum, but their actions are limited to participating in the activities organised by the ecomuseum.
  3. Proactive. They are those with whom there is a bidirectional link, they carry out ecomuseum activities and propose actions. This group is divided into groups: educational, senior citizens, livestock farmers, tourism sector, etc.

The participation mechanisms are as follows:

  • Experiences. These are itineraries that run throughout the region and serve to link heritage elements and towns.
  • Courses, workshops and conferences. The ecomuseum organises workshops, promotes documentary film sessions, hosts conferences, etc.
  • Committee of collectives. The creation of a permanent round table of different groups (social and economic) is being planned as a space for dialogue, debate, reflection and innovation for the current and future needs of the ecomuseum.
  • Agreements. The radials are public and private heritage elements. They are managed by the ecomuseum through agreements. This is an example of the work carried out by the ecomuseum to establish synergies with different groups.
  • Folk music school. The ecomuseum has created a municipal music school in the municipality of Esterri d’Àneu to teach traditional music. It is focused on educational audiences and has already produced some local music groups.
  • Local economy. The ecomuseum promotes and supports local products and tries to be a space for their visibility. The shop sells local products, with a quality brand created by the ecomuseum together with local artisan collectives. The products are handicrafts (wood, basketry, metalwork, textiles, etc.) so as not to come into conflict with agri-food producers.

4.2. Social milieu

Number of visitors from the territory/locality where the ecomuseum is located
Number of foreign visitors
20.000 (do not have the data broken down between locals and foreigners)

Forms of involvement

The participation mechanisms are as follows:

  • Experiences. These are designed to raise awareness among the local population of their own heritage and to provide an offer to outsiders.
  • Dramatised visits. Dramatised interpretative visits have been created in which different discourses and narratives are explored: gender, identity, popular traditions, witchcraft, etc. In this section we also highlight the actions in heritage education that aim to reach different groups and sectors of the population .
  • Radials . The radials are the heritage resources that serve to make the territory and its identity known to visitors.
  • The website and social media are also a mechanism for interaction.
  • Publications. The ecomuseum produces various publications, both informative and scientific: studies of toponymy, recovery of traditions, children’s books, etc.

4.3. Website analisis

The ecomuseum’s digital resources are structured more as a showcase for the institution to sell products than as a socialisation mechanism for the community(ies) and the territory. A review of the ecomuseum’s website and the different channels it uses (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) shows that they are tools that make visible its action on the territory, its research work and marketing (products, bookings for visits, etc.). Its real work continues to be in traditional channels, face-to-face, even with the younger population, who need proximity and empathy more than ever.

Type of intervention made possible by the website

Only information Chance to suggest actions Complaints or Compliments Purchase of tickets Open access or under registration

Kinds of suggestions available

Proposing museum objectives On funding issues About museum planning On accessibility

Quality of Feedback

Receipt message is sent The proposal is discussed at the museum management level Results of the discussion are sent

Most of the ecomuseum’s interaction takes place via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and the comments left by users on the website. The ecomuseum considers that technological means are necessary, but not fundamental in a territory where there is such proximity to the population. The aspects they are developing the most are transparency, product marketing and bookings.

On the website you can take a 3D tour of the central core of the ecomuseum.

5. Innovation and Research

The ecomuseum sees itself as an entity that goes beyond the traditional museum. This vision makes it innovative, both in terms of understanding its role in the territory and the community, and in the perception of those who approach it. Among the aspects it considers to be innovative are the following:

  • Elaboration and work on different discourses and experiences. Examples could be the Checkers Game or dramatisations during visits.
  • Heritage as a product and an element of local development. This leads to a consolidation of local businesses and the acceptance of the local product. They have to understand a territorial context in which massive winter tourism has developed, exploitation of water resources for the installation of energy companies and the protection of natural heritage. Part of its work is to promote a balance between the exploitation of natural resources, economic development and the protection and dissemination of heritage.
  • During the pandemic, interesting projects were created such as: Ethnology of confinement, a project based on the social network Facebook so that the community itself could upload its everyday life, an ethnology of everyday life. Another project was: memories of the pandemic, a process of the pandemic in the local environment.

The ecomuseum understands that innovation means knowing the environment and anticipating needs. In other words, the capacity to generate proposals that provide solutions to future needs.

6. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Number of SDGs that the ecomuseum is working on
Preferential SDGs
4, 5, 8, 11, 12 and 17

SDG-related projects/actions

Joc de DamesRoute with an integral vision, with a gender vision, talking about the women and men who made history.5
Gassia HouseFrom the exhibition, we will understand perfectly the activities that were carried out inside a house, the relationships that existed between the members who lived in it, how the chores and domestic responsibilities were distributed and how the main factors of change from then until now have been realised.8, 11
La Roseta de Gavàs Cheese FactoryPresentation of the traditional way of making cheese in relation to the environment and activation of the local economy.12
The Guingueta d'Àneu bunkersLearning the history and memory of the post-war period at a time when the civilian population was mostly immersed in poverty and subjected to harsh repression.4

The ecomuseum works directly with the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, with the Alt Pirineu Natural Park, and with the groups and agents involved in the environmental and economic sustainability of the territory, such as the group of ecologists, livestock farmers, agri-food companies, hydroelectric companies, the tourism sector, etc. Among the actions implemented, research has been carried out on traditional uses with meteorology, and it has been possible to obtain certificates of quality of light visibility of the sky and Wild-Rivers; the latter is a European project that aims to locate and promote water resources free of pollution.

7. COVID-19

During the months of confinement, the ecomuseum stresses that the most remarkable thing was that cohesion processes took place between different actors and sectors of the territory. Their perception is that solidarity was generated at a general level, for example: subsidies were maintained, strategies of connection were woven, processes of reflection took place, etc.

On the contrary, one of the aspects that they consider did not help the museological and patrimonial panorama in general is that there was an obsession with digitalisation, and from their point of view this is considered a mistake. A local museum cannot compete in this world; its raison d’être is not so much the digital accessibility of contents, but to be a space for social encounters and reflection for the future. Another negative aspect is that the oral memory projects with the elderly had to be stopped.

However, during the process of confinement of the pandemic it was possible to develop interesting projects, such as: Ethnology of confinement, a project based on the social network Facebook so that the community itself could upload its everyday life, an ethnology of everyday life. Another project was: memories of the pandemic, a process of the pandemic in the local environment.

The de-escalation of confinement and the “new normality” boosted local tourism. The dynamics of heritage uses had to be restructured. Visitors and tourists demanded to visit spaces and heritage resources in the open air, discarding closed places. This was an opportunity to create itineraries and, above all, narratives that explained the heritage resources in connection with the territory and its evolution.


Scientific Coordinators

Leandro França, Barbara Kazior, Óscar Navajas, Manuel Parodi-Álvarez, Lisa Pigozzi, Raul dal Santo, Julio Seoane, Maristela Simão