Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ancient Treasures : A Guide to Lima's Museums

The diverse facets of Peru's history and culture is displayed in museums scattered throughout Lima.

lima museums header photo

Among the various things I've done in the past few days I've visited a variety of museums. Lima has a lot of museums. There are museums dedicated to almost anything you can think of, even a museum all about death. These are my favourite six, each having something eclectic or special about it (but remember, there are so many more to see not covered on this list):


MUSEO DEL ORO (MUSEUM OF GOLD)


Most online guides tout Museo Larco as the top museum in Lima. But Museo Del Oro won the gold medal for me. I had a sense of clutter and chaos when I first stepped foot on the top floor. The first floor is dedicated to military pieces, with unique weaponry and uniforms. Although pictures weren't allowed I took a few sneaky ones and got a photo of a baton once owned by Mao Tse Tung. Under the chaos and cobwebs were many pieces like this once owned by famous people throughout history.

museum of gold baton mao

The basement floor was sealed in a vault, and I felt as if I were transported to a huge bank vault. The pieces were displayed immaculately behind their glass windows, displaying pre-Columbian jewellery and weapons made from silver and gold. Truly unique pieces that serve as a testament to Peru's past as a rich thriving empire.

museum of gold vault pieces
museum of gold vault pieces

A shrunken head from the basement floor. Obviously Pre-Columbian, but I'm not entirely sure what they are used for. I had many strangely delightful finds on the basement floor too like this one. I really can't emphasise how much I enjoyed my visit to this museum, with all its unique pieces, and thats why it's my number one.

museum of gold shrunken head


MUSEO LARCO


Museo Larco is a small, but beautifully presented museum, providing an escape from the bustling life of urban Lima. With lush green gardens and a restaurant, it is protected by imposing white walls and an iron cast fence. People don't come here to just enjoy the 45,000 piece collection, but to enjoy the beautiful scenery that the once royal mansion turned museum provides.

museo larco green gardens
museo larco green gardens

This museum is said to house some of the best preserved pre-Columbian art. The collection in the main building is superb- I've never seen such well preserved and complex pre-Columbian artefacts before. One thing that really makes this museum interesting is the fact that visitors are given access to the museum's store rooms which also shows the pieces that are not on display. There is also a collection of erotic pieces which are separate from the main collection. It's definitely interesting, not what you'd expect to see in a typical museum. So yeah, Museo Larco really stood out to me for a few reasons- the beautiful greenery, the superb pieces, the access to pieces not on display (which is very atypical for museums) and the Kama Sutra collection. Another one not to miss in Lima. 

museo larco display


THE MONASTERY OF SAN FRANCISCO


Not actually a museum per se, but for all purposes I will treat it as one. We didn't actually visit the monastery this year, but during our trip in 2011- but I still remember my visit as clear as day. The monastery isn't just a big church, it also houses thousands upon thousands of skulls and bones, because just below the monastery are catacombs. The tour is inexpensive, and we were given a detailed history by the guide about the monastery before we headed below. Be warned, if you are claustrophobic run far far away. The catacombs have low ceilings, slim walkways with thick musky air and low lighting. I felt like I was in a dungeon. As you can see in the first picture, the skulls and bones are neatly lined up in an almost obsessive compulsive way. Is it worth it? Absolutely yes. As long as you can handle the creepy factor this place is an impressive sanctuary.

monastery of san francisco low ceiling


CASA ALIAGA


Casa Aliaga is a house in central Lima that has been owned by the same family for 18 generations. Although it has been renovated many times, it's the oldest house in the America's. In fact, the family still occupies the house- but in a different, more modern annex (which we weren't allowed to enter). The unassuming outside and interior were worlds apart, and I kind of felt like I was entering a hidden castle in Lima. The paintings on the walls of the house are of the Aliaga family, and the house holds many art and artefacts since it was built 500 years ago. I'm pretty certain most people have no clue this place exists- there are no big fancy signs outside and you can only book a tour in advance on the phone- but this house shows us how the aristocratic families of Peru once (and still) live - a stark difference from the rest of the country.

casa aliaga beautiful room


MUSEUM OF ITALIAN ART


The first time I saw this museum was from a tour bus in 2011. We never stopped off in this area, but I remember thinking, what a pretty building! I wonder what is inside?! So yesterday when we decided to drive to central Lima and drove past this building again I insisted we stop and check out whats inside. What I really like about this museum is the beautiful facade, which is why I remembered it for all those years. Apparently this museum was a gift from the Italian community in Peru and is the only museum in Peru of European arts. The collection inside is quite small, I'd guess there are about 150 pieces which took us 45 minutes to complete. Something I thought was kind of cool was this museum also caters to blind people. Touching artworks is usually forbidden, but blind people are allowed to touch the sculptures with a special pair of gloves. I think this service is just a really nice touch above the rest.

museum of italian art beautiful facade
museum of italian art beautiful facade


MUSEO DE ARTE DE LIMA


Next to the Museum of Italian Art, we found Museo De Arte De Lima (MALI). Personally, I did not like this museum as much as Museo Larco and the Gold Museum. Only a few exhibitions were open when we went due to renovations. However, the grounds outside the museum had some really interesting pieces of architectural art. We spent almost an hour exploring the gardens and surrounding eclectic structures.

museo de arte de lima building
museo de arte de lima gardens
museo de arte de lima gardens

Image attribution:
"Lima" by Ray_LAC // CC BY 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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