The responsibilities of Provincial Councils today include not only managing the interests of the province itself but also providing support and assistance to municipalities, as set out in Law 16/1985 on Spain's Historical Heritage, Law 7/1985 on the Foundations of Local Government and Law 5/2010 on Local Autonomous Government in Andalusia. The Provincial Council is responsible for the conservation and dissemination of our historical and artistic heritage, above all that of its own province, with a view to returning to the community what has always belonged to it. Only knowledge of this heritage will prevent it from disappearing. As a first step, the provincial corporation has begun the important task of researching and safeguarding what it possesses. The next step in ensuring its proper recognition must be to disseminate it according to principles which facilitate access to our artistic assets. These are intended to reduce social and geographical inequality, restore part of the province's history to it and provide better access for future generations to a cultural heritage we have received and which we have a responsibility to enrich and pass on.
Given our commitment to this important cultural legacy and the major role played by the new information and communication technologies in documenting, conserving, researching, exhibiting, teaching and disseminating heritage at the service of the public, the Granada Provincial Council, via its Cultural Heritage Department, has logically opted for a virtual environment to exhibit a selection of the historical heritage works which form part of the institution's history.
Virtual museums, with precedents in Duchamp's transportable museum and André Malraux's imaginary museum as institutions open to society, have become new models of management which, above all, facilitate free collective access to heritage items, without the limitations of time and space associated with traditional museums. They thus constitute another step towards the democratisation of culture and heritage, bringing them closer to society through its interactive involvement in the museum, with the use of new textual and audiovisual elements and more intuitive didactic resources based on criteria of usability. In this way a three-dimensional scenario is created for the construction and exchange of culture and experiences between a wider public and a more specialised audience.
The art collection of the Granada Provincial Council includes numerous items coming from the seizure of church property by the State at various times in the nineteenth century, as is the case with some works in the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the Palacio de Bibataubín and the former San Lázaro Hospital. However, the most outstanding works are from the contemporary collection it has developed through its role as a patron of the arts. This has been encouraged by an ongoing programme of grants, subsidies and awards which has constituted a fundamental support for creative work up to the present.
In the province's virtual museum we have assembled a collection which gives priority to locally produced works, followed by items from elsewhere which have influenced our own artists. Thirdly there are pieces from other areas which can be considered an integral part of our culture.
The impossibility of making all of this heritage accessible to the public has led us to develop this innovative museum, where local and global art come together and complement each other, with a view to bringing people closer to the treasures held in the province and its capital, many of which have long been hidden and neglected. This scheme provides an alternative way of accessing our heritage, supporting and promoting direct contact with works of art. However, we are aware that virtual access cannot replace the aesthetic, cognitive and emotional experience of seeing the original, and, although the project is still at an early stage, a provincial museum is envisaged for Granada where a selection of items would be on display. Meanwhile the Virtual Provincial Museum has opted for the Colegio de Niñas Nobles, a historical building owned by the Granada Provincial Council, as a space to house the interactive museum and one which can be used subsequently for a permanent exhibition of the most significant pieces in its collection of contemporary art and will constitute an important stimulus for the development of a future physical museum in the city.
The President, Granada Provincial Council