The origins of MIEC date back to 1990, when sculptor Alberto Carneiro put forward the idea of organising a series of sculpture symposia related to contemporary art, particularly public sculpture, in Santo Tirso. After the 4th Symposium, a Municipal Council meeting held on 20 November 1996 passed the proposal for the creation of MIEC, an institution devoted to organising and carrying out the symposia, ensuring the maintenance and conservation of the pieces and the advancement and dissemination of all the activities pertaining to them.

The Museum was officially opened in 1997 by Jorge Sampaio, then President of the Portuguese Republic, accompanied by Mayor Joaquim Couto. Its operational structure was reformulated on 25 March 1999, resulting in a new composition of its staff, which, in addition to technical and administrative employees, included two curators — sculptor Alberto Carneiro and art critic Gérard Xuriguera.

The city of Santo Tirso has hosted the International Symposium of Contemporary Sculpture since 1990, which has brought artists from different cultural, artistic and aesthetic backgrounds.

An institutional museum, MIEC has been conceived as a forum for the fruitful dialogue between different contemporary art trends, as well as for debating and disseminating public sculpture. In a place with strong interaction between art and the population, this museum is therefore a privileged stage for reflection, and a unifying centre for innovative projects, in view of its unique nature and of the especial relationship between the collection and its environment.

The Museum comprises the urban perimeter of the town of Santo Tirso, allowing for free, autonomous circulation, which strengthens even more the relationship between the artworks and their locations. This open-air stage integrates the entire city in a comprehensive artistic initiative, by containing the artworks resulting from the ten sculpture symposia held between 1991 and 2015. The MIEC collection includes 54 pieces organised according to six main clusters:

1) Parque D. Maria II and surrounding gardens;
2) Praça do Município ;
3) Parque dos Carvalhais;
4) Praça Camilo Castelo Branco;
5) Parque Urbano de Rabada;
6) Parque Urbano de Gião.

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