Destination Museums: National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico is situated in the nation’s capital, Mexico City. While the original collection was established in 1790, the entity as it is today was inaugurated in 1964. It is the largest museum in the country as well as its most visited. Sitting in the space within Mahatma Gandhi Street and Paseo de la Reforma in Chapultepec Park, the museum is renowned internationally for its collection of over 600,000 artistic and cultural artifacts from Mexico’s pre- and post-Columbian heritage spread over two floors. The awe-inspiring 22-ton Sun Stone of the Aztec civilization takes pride of place at the entrance.
In keeping with its name, there is a permanent exhibit called ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ that showcases the evolution of the physical, social and cultural characteristics of our ancestors on their journey to modern-day Man.
The other permanent exhibitions are divided into regions and civilizations. Among those found on the ground floor are: Northern Cultures – hunter-gatherers and static societies that populated northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.Cultures of the West – Mesoamerican cultures distinguished by their grasp of metallurgy and unique funeral traditions.Cultures of the Gulf Coast – the Olmecs, Totonacos and Huastecos cultures which together controlled this area for over 3,000 years. Mexica – this advanced agricultural civilization dominated the Mesoamerican landscape before the Spanish arrived.Maya – One of the most famous empires in human history, the Maya are revered for their art, discoveries in astronomy, complex writing system and intricate calendars.
On the first floor, the permanent exhibitions focus on the indigenous population of Mexico after the Spanish conquest. There is no doubt that this museum houses the most well-maintained and pertinent collections with regard to South American peoples. It also holds temporary exhibitions to showcase artifacts from around the region and from across the globe. Over the years, priceless exhibits from ancient Greece, Egypt, India and Spain have graced the floors and walls of Mexico’s National Museum. It has also played host to exhibitions on ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations, African art, Mexican codices and the animals of the zodiac. Visitors often laud the wide open spaces, ample seating and the adjacent park as excellent. The central fountain is said to be almost as big a draw as some of the exhibits inside. Just across the road are Chapultepec Zoo and Chapultepec Castle. A stone’s throw away is the National Auditorium which hosts performing artists and exhibitions.
Mexico City is best seen from late February to early June as the temperatures are just nice without the sticky humidity and negligible chance of rain.