"By changing space by leaving the space of one's usual sensibilities,
one enters into communication with a space that is physically innovating...
For we do not change place, we change our nature, Gaston Bachelard.
I like museums, but as I visit more and more, I'm getting particular. There are only so many science museums one can visit, and there are only so many ways to display a dinosaur diorama, so natural history museums are out as well. But I'll go to any municipal art museum I come across, and local history museums are the best way to learn about those around me (know their ancestors is to know them).
I've been to some of the world's best, the Prado in Madrid, the Met in New York, and my local favorite, Chicago's Art Institute. London's got a few gems, and then there's Italy, where you might as well put the entire country under a glass box. So to say the small Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan near Chinclayo knocked my sox off is saying something indeed. I still haven't found that pair of sox.
The museum is the repository of the entire collection of finds of a particularly intact pyramid. There were 11 graves within the towering pyramid, and only one had been discovered and sacked by grave robbers. The remaining 10 were carefully, lovingly, painstakingly and slowly excavated by foreign and local archeologists. And while the museum could have displayed the gold masks, enormous beaded breast plates, amazingly intact tapestries and other burial relics with significant "wow" factor, they went one step further. They incorporated the entire archeological process into the displays, from the first discovery to dusting relics with tiny paint brushes to photos of the many layers they uncovered. The archeological process was, for me, as fascinating as the relics themselves, and together, made for an impressive display.
For example, The Lord of Sipan was buried with no less than 20 layers of jewels, tapestries, beaded clothing and metal crowns and breastplates. Over the years, the soil squashed the whole works into what, to me, looked like a big mess. But the archeologist removed each layer, photographing the grave before and after, and in the museum, displayed each distinct layer. The visitor was able to view each layer and appreciate each relic as a unit, instead of the mish-mash it appeared in the initial photograph of the grave. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the museum. PHOTO of museum exterior
I spent two nights in a depressing hotel (Chinclayo had slim pickings) during which I got an e-mail from my friend Scot who had discovered paradise on the Peruvian coast. I noted the town and got on a bus north to Mancora, just two hours shy of the Ecuadorian border. Now that I think about it, I think it's time to introduce Scot formally. Check him out in the next entry.