Text and photos Carlos E. Gómez
May is Museum Month and, from America to Oceania, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, more than 36,000 museums in 157 countries will offer activities focusing on this year’s theme, Hyperconnected Museums: New approaches, new audiences.
Suay Aksoy, President of the International Council of Museums, believes that increasingly complex technological networks facilitate greater interconnectivity and provide museums with more ways to display their collections, including personalized audiovisual guides that transform the visitor’s aesthetic experience.
As a result, innumerable common projects have emerged in recent years with the collaboration and participation of marginalized groups, indigenous peoples, and local institutions. “We are now seeing that museums can be places of reconciliation, spaces for debate addressing issues such as the environment, the elderly, human rights, and urban renewal. Often we’ve seen, for example, exhibitions about migrations developed and even curated with the participation of the migrants themselves,” Aksoy emphasizes.
This new approach and these new technologies mean there has never been a better time to visit museums. Here are a few of our favorites.
The Gold Museum, in the heart of the city, houses the world’s largest prehispanic gold collection, with 38,000 metal objects and 20,000 ceramic, bone, and wood pieces. The National Museum of Colombia boasts more than 20,000 pieces in its art history, ethnography, and archeology collections.
The Larco Museum, housed in a colonial building, contains more than 45,000 carefully classified objects, including the most complete collection of art from the Mochica –one of the largest pre-Inca civilizations– and a set of erotic art pottery unique to America. The Pachacámac Site Museum on the outskirts of Lima is located in one of Peru’s most important archeological ceremonial centers.
Casa Rosada, a museum located in an old custom house, functions as an annex to the government headquarters and displays more than 11,000 historical pieces that belonged to several presidents of the republic. The National Museum of Fine Arts, inaugurated in 1896, houses the nation’s impressive artistic heritage; its international collections make it one of Latin America’s finest museums.
Santiago de Chile
The National Museum of Fine Arts is one of Latin America’s oldest. Inside the museum’s neoclassical building are more than 3,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, engravings, and drawings by Chilean artists, as well as major universal works of art and a library with over 100,000 volumes. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is dedicated to reconciliation, reflection, and the strengthening of peace, as well as remembering the victims of the Pinochet dictatorship. More than 200,000 people visit the museum each year.
Inhotim, the world’s largest open-air contemporary art museum, is located 43 miles from this regional capital. The museum’s more than 80 installations and works of art are sown throughout 345 acres of gardens, emerald hillsides, five ornamental lakes, and 25 galleries and exhibition halls surrounded by hammocks.
The Palace of Fine Arts, home to México’s supreme cultural expression and containing every manifestation of the fine arts, was declared a UNESCO Artistic Monument. The National Museum of Anthropology, with 23 galleries, is one of the continent’s most admired. It houses and exhibits the archaeological legacy of the Mesoamerican peoples.
New York offers museums of all kinds and for all audiences, but two are considered essential. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the planet’s best-known and most visited museums, has a collection that exceeds two million works ranging from treasures of classical antiquity to paintings and sculptures by nearly every great master in the world, as well as an enormous collection of American art. The American Museum of Natural History is one of the most important of its kind and holds a significant portion of the scientific history of humanity.
Washington is home to the world’s largest museum complex. The “must-sees” include the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which explores the theory of evolution through its collection of more than 125 million species. The museum employs the planet’s most robust team of natural history scientists and experts to disseminate the Earth’s natural wonders. The National Air and Space Museum has the largest collection of airplanes and spacecraft. The National Museum of American History houses a unique collection of American objects, ranging from suits to home appliances.
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is among the most revered and grand in the United States, with more than 45,000 works of art, including Egyptian artifacts, calligraphy, imperial Chinese art, and 19th-century American art. Its collections are among the most complete on the continent. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has a collection of art from around the world that includes 2,500 sculptures, paintings, furniture, and other decorative arts. The Museum of Science Boston is another “must-see.”
Located an hour from Orlando, two hours from Tampa, and four hours from Miami, the Kennedy Space Center is a vast museum complex, theme park, and state-of-the-art cinema. The Center comprises two large areas: the visitor center and the space center, which includes the building where spacecraft and the complex system of launching platforms are assembled.
The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the most emblematic of its kind with twenty million natural and cultural objects and a library holding more than 250,000 volumes where research in systemic biology and anthropology is carried out. Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the world’s largest and its collection includes thousands of objects from WWII and the postwar period. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the world’s most important, with a permanent collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings that rivals all others on the planet.
The Young Museum displays American, African, and Oceanic art, inspiring dialogue between cultures. The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is an icon of education and science, with a collection of over 26 million artifacts and specimens spread across three areas: an aquarium, a planetarium, and a natural history museum.