These days we live pretty close to El Museo Nacional de Colombia, it’s on Cr. 7 and Cll. 29, so I figured I should drop in some day—and this morning I did! (I have yet to hit the Gold Museum, but I suspect I know what’s there…) It is currently under construction but it is still open. Surprisingly entrance was free; I don’t know what the occasion was but their site says it’s usually 2.000. Still super cheap either way.
The museum, established in 1823, is the oldest in Colombia and one of the oldest in South America. However it’s current location was not its original one; its present building used to be a prison and was built in 1874 and was then converted into the museum in 1948. Inside you can’t really tell, but the barred small windows are a hint I guess.
There are three floors to the museum, and immediately in the first one you are greeted with an asteroid! (and a naked statue) The founding asteroid, as it is the first thing the museum acquired.
The rest of the floor has prehispanic pottery and assorted anthropological artifacts, the most interesting being this head-in-a-stomach piece that was left unexplained. Well and also two mummies. There was also some discussion of how they used a lot of yuca (like corn in Mexico I would guess) and houses and burial practices. There is also a small selection of gold pieces, but as mentioned the other museum is really the place to go for those things.
The second floor is all about the Emancipation of the Republic and the Founders of the Republic. (dun dun) Unsurprisingly then, much of it is portraits of important people. There is also a selection of religious artifacts going along with the importation of Catholicism, some African pieces, and other artifacts from this colonial period. Unfortunately I have a very limited grasp of the history of Colombia, so I am not sure I fully appreciated this floor. I’d like to get a bit of a better grasp as it seems like so much has happened to and in Colombia, but I suspect a book is the more appropriate medium for that as the museum is not so much trying to tell a story as present pieces of it.
The death of general Santander. The priest looks a little irritated, “Ok guys, you can go now.”
There is also a small section showing various “heroes” but questions the narratives that have been constructed over time. It is a space not to “know what happened, but to think about how we record those events.” Por ejemplo, in the Colombian national anthem there is reference to Antonio Ricaurte sacrificing himself in a battle so Simon Bolívar could win, but currently it is suspected the story was fabricated by Bolívar. Similarly, generals or influential people who were not of European lineage (mainly Indigenous people and Africans) are frequently left out. (surprise!) Also Cartagena celebrated its centennial Independence day on November 11th, whereas Colombia normally celebrates it the 20th of July. Little things I think most places are guilty of, but I thought it was interesting it was recognized. Here is a selection of the Bolívar representations:
The thiiiird floor is more modern artifacts. Development of art and ideas and then paintings all the way up to fairly recent Botero. (Who, like the gold, also has his own museum) There are little snippets about the radio and other whatnot, but by then I was pretty hungry and not really reading everything. I particularly enjoyed the Miss Universe trophy from 1958, which is surprisingly the only one Colombia has won. I also learned that in the 1800s and 1900s palm hats were the main artisanal export.
So that was my adventure for the day. It’s a nice museum, but if you are pressed for time I wouldn’t say you have to make it over. While none of the placards are in English, they do have these big English “cards” for each room that have the same information, (more of less, I didn’t actually use them) and on Wednesdays there is a tour (supposedly). There is also a small restaurant and a Juan Valdez if you really want to make an excursion out of it. (they are outside the museum, so you could just go there if you wanted.) Hope your week is wrapping up nicely!