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Memories of an internship in Mértola

From the 4 th of July to the 21 st of august we received in the Museu de Mértola, the internship of Floriane Paquay, student in the Master in Museology of the University of Liége (Belgium). Below some considerations about her experience in these days:

Sitting on the terrace of the residence that was mine for five weeks, I am pleased to admire what took my breath away the first time I arrived in Mértola, this 13th century castle, erected on the top of this hill and surrounded by houses with orange tiles and white walls. The kitchen smell of the restaurant across the street the discussions of the neighbours meeting outside after a hot day, the lights of the historical centre and the breeze caressing my skin are the last sensations of my stay in Mértola. For exactly thirty-five days, this view and this atmosphere have been mine. As my gaze wanders, it rests or a moment on the Igreja Matriz, a building that is part of the history of Mértola, forged by the cultural exchanges with the Mediterranean sea that are specific to the Alentejo region. While nowadays it welcomes parishioners several times a week, it was once a place of Muslim and, earlier still, Roman worship.
These layers of history are perceptible everywhere in Mértola and produce a cultural mix reflected in its present. Cláudio Torrez's utopian and revolutionary idea of turning this city into an open-air museum, preserving in-situ archaeological sites of all ages, was the starting point for my desire to make this memorable journey. The desire to see with my own eyes a project spanning more than forty years that has allowed a city abandoned by its inhabitants due to poverty to rise again through what characterises it intrinsically; its culture and the memory of its inhabitants.
It is certainly the latter that has marked my adventure the most. Indeed, they keep Vila-Museu alive by welcoming the public, perpetuating ancestral crafts, discovering new finds and studying them, preserving the objects that make up the collective memory and cherishing it all. I would like to thank those people who dedicate their lives to transmitting and preserving the memories of this city, making it shine in the eyes of its visitors; the team of the Museum Nélia, Mafalda, Ana Isabel, Mariana Lopes, Fernando, Pedro, Mariana Costa, Paula and Guilhermina, the team of the Campo Arqueológico, Susana, Clara, Virgílio et Rute and, finally, special attention for Lígia.
By observing and participating in this heartfelt work which is, above all, in the image of an entire city, I finally understood why I have chosen to study Museology. The most important aspect for a museum institution is to succeed in creating a link with its community and, more importantly, to make it a part of its existence. This trip has been for me a way to grow humanly and intellectually speaking. This meeting will remain, in my eyes, an important and constitutive moment of my existence.

Hoping to come back as soon as possible to know the future developments, I leave Mértola with my eyes filled with stars and my head full of unforgettable memories.

Floriane Paquay (August 2022)

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