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The National Museum of Colombia

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The National Museum of Colombia

Policarpa Salavarrieta

National Museum, Bogota

The National Museum of Colombia:

Colombia's National Museum (Museo Nacional) is located in the heart of Bogota. It's a sprawling, three-story structure dedicated to history and art. Although there are some very interesting exhibits, all in all it's a little dry.

Visiting the National Museum:

Colombia’s National Museum is about 10 blocks away from Plaza Bolivar (the heart of old Bogota) on Carrera 7 between calle 28 and calle 29. It’s possible to walk from one to the other, or there are buses on a regular basis. The museum is a massive yellowish brick building that was once a prison: night watchmen swear it’s haunted. It’s open daily except Mondays. Hours are 10-6, 10-5 on Sundays. Adult Admission is less than $2 US and is free on Sundays.

What’s in the Museum?:

Colombia’s National Museum is dedicated to history and art and covers everything from the earliest inhabitants of Colombia to the present. On the lowest floor are rooms filled with ancient pottery and golden ornaments and figurines from long-gone cultures. The museum has sections on the conquest, the colonial era, independence and the republican era. The top floor is dedicated to the modern era, but it’s mostly art and very little history. There is a small gift shop and coffee shop on the first floor.

Highlights of the National Museum:

The museum is divided into different sections, some of which are more interesting than others. On the first floor is a vault-like room with golden ornaments and figurines from Colombia's ancient cultures: it's interesting if you haven't already gone to the much more impressive gold museum a few blocks away. The archaeology sections are kind of cool, and the independence section is worth a stop, particularly to see the "many faces of Simón Bolívar" exhibit. The colonial era part is best if you're a fan of art from that time. On the top floor are some paintings by Botero and other well-known modern Colombian artists.

Lowlights of the National Museum:

Parts of the museum are a little stale. The republican era (1830-1900 or so) section is an endless series of stony-faced portraits of former presidents. Surprisingly, some of the most interesting parts of Colombia's history, such as the 1000 Day's War or the 1928 Banana Massacre, are barely mentioned (and don't rate their own exhibit). There is a room on the 1948 Bogotazo riot, but somehow they have made a day of mayhem and destruction seem boring. There is nothing on the tragic period known as La Violencia, nothing on Pablo Escobar and nothing about the FARC and other modern troubles.

Who would like Colombia’s National Museum?:

The museum is best for history or art buffs. Colombia's National Museum is a traditional one, in that very few of the displays or exhibits are in any way interactive. Kids may be bored stiff. History fans can skip the third floor entirely, and art fans can go directly from the pottery of the ancient era to see the angels and saints in the colonial section before heading to the top floor to see the Boteros. There are better museums in Bogota: Art lovers should first go to the Botero Museum, and history buffs should check out the July 20 Independence Museum.

Non-Spanish speakers will struggle, as few of the exhibits have English translation (and nothing in German, French, etc). Supposedly, English-speaking guides are available on Wednesdays.

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