The Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) - Bogota

I'd read that the Museo del Oro was reason enough to visit Bogota but not even that made me check the opening hours. You know where this is going don't you? Yes, of course we turned up when it was closed, this is one of my classic travel fails and one I repeat frequently!  So much for being the well travelled blogger with all the answers ;). But we got there eventually, at the end of our trip and it was quite spectacular. 

I imagined people raved about the museum because of their holdings of pre-Colombian art but the place is spectacular not just because of the extensive collection of gold  but also because of the wonderful presentation of the works, the interpretation and the emphasis on  both where and how the artifacts where worn and used, and on the cosmology, how and what they meant to those who made or used them. In this regard the objects themselves are infused with symbolism which connects us to the past through an understanding of what they meant and how they were regarded. 
When museums can connect us across time and space, through the objects they are exhibiting, they are doing a great job. I really loved this museum because in addition to the quality of the collection, they do a great job of putting it all together telling us how, where and why these objects are important. It starts with a section on metalwork, smelting, techniques and various alloys, moves to a series of rooms discussing pieces in relation to specific local cultures and regions and then moves up a  floor where the emphasis is on cosmology and the  symbolic, the ways in which objects were used by shamans to invoke powerful spiritual forces.

Just to be a contrarian D. liked the Gold Museum for its ceramic collection! He's right that the pottery works are quite lovely, like the gold pieces they are incredibly diverse and show wide stylistic influences.
I particularly liked the way in which they displayed many of the wearable pieces against a shadow.  Crowns, breastplates, earrings and other forms of adornment where shown, some worn by women, chiefs and other pieces worn by shamans and used for ritual purposes.

There is so much to see here that after a while all the gold can become quite overwhelming. It's incredible to think that this is what was found and preserved after the colonialists plundered and removed all that they could.
I can't resist including the following images which were among my favorites.
One of the most significant single pieces in the museum is the "Offering Raft" from the ,  Muisca people, a pre-Colombian group on which the legend of El Dorado may have been based. The work depicts the ritual offering of gold made from a reed raft in the middle of a lake. Here's what the blurb at the museum said,"According to present-day indigenous groups, gold is the fertilizing energy of the Sun Father, while lakes are the womb of the Earth Mother. When the gilded chieftain  there gold and offerings into the waters from the raft, he was making a pact with nature for life to be renewed"
Unfortunately there wasn't much light and my hand isn't too steady so this was the best photo I could manage...
Like so many museums today the Gold Museum has added an experiential element and their final room should not be missed. You enter in the dark and the circular room comes alive with the sounds of shamanic chanting. You stand in the half light between the objects and the sounds of ritual practice, reunited across a millennia. It's incredibly atmospheric and brings together the pieces and their usage, somehow unshackling them from the sterility of a museum display. It really helps you contextualize the pieces as cultural and spiritual artifacts. Don't miss it, it's easy to walk by if the doors are closed, it's on the right as you exit the display of the "Offering Raft". Just wait for a few minutes on the benches  for the door to open.
This really is a wonderful museum and we recommend it highly, we rescheduled our flight back to Bogota to get in early enough to see the museum and it was well worth the effort.
Tip: Do pay attention to the opening times and learn from our mistake. We arrived just as they were closing at 4pm on a Sunday only to find out that (like so many museums the world over) they are closed on a Monday. I often say travel is a skill set but there are certain lessons we never learn, that everything is closed in Italy at lunchtime and that you should never presume a museum will be open. I seem to be incapable of learning from these mistakes but the message is, "save yourself" and learn from mine!


Dona said…
d and d agree...I also loved the ceramics.
D. was so happy to hear you concurred!