The Spanish crown administered its overseas empire from Sevilla, which also served as the landing port for gold and silver bullion. Such an enterprise generated a lot of paperwork, which was eventually filed away in this building. It is a mother lode of documents, enough of which are shown in rotating exhibitions to make for a fascinating visit. The building was designed by Felipe II’s favorite architect, Juan de Herrera, as the Lonja (Stock Exchange). In the 17th century, it was headquarters for the Academy of Sevilla, founded in part by the great Spanish artist Murillo. In 1785, during the reign of Carlos III, the building was turned over for use as a general records office for the Indies. Today’s Archivo General de Indias contains some 4 million documents, including letters between patron queen Isabel and explorer Columbus. These very rare documents are locked in air-conditioned storage to keep them from disintegrating. On display in glass cases are fascinating documents in which the dreams of the early explorers come alive.