Monthly Archives: July 2011

National Museum of Anthropology Maven

With the recent naming of Diana Magaloni Kerpel as direct to the National Museum of Anthropology, this emblematic museum is undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Despite a severely restricted budget (what else is new?), Dr. Magaloni is successfully recovering the original philosophy of this institution by hosting numerous colloquials, conferences, workshops and talks on both traditional and novel topics (more on this in my upcoming blogs), and has painstakingly prepared new exhibits, culling from the extensive inventory of the INAH (Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History) and borrowing from friendly museums nationwide. By promoting an uncommon, yet urgent and refreshing attitude of international collaboration, she has bolstered educational programs and promoted exciting new temporary exhibits. Her approach is unusual and decisive for what has gradually become a stodgy, pedantic institution. Perhaps her fearless attitude of risk-taking, and more global perspective (she did graduate work at Yale University) gives her a startlingly open mindset for a museum director, which will hopefully put the Anthropology Museum back on the international map as a groundbreaking institution of worldwide acclaim.

I will explore the three exhibits currently at the Anthropology Museum and a few recent conferences sponsored under the tutelage of Dr. Magaloni in my next blog.


The National Museum of Anthropology: Mexico’s Crown Jewel

The National Museum of Anthropology is to Mexico City what the Louvre is to Paris, or the Met to New York City. It is unfathomable that a tourist visit this capital city, without visiting this emblematic museum at least once if not twice. Encompassing over 4 thousand years of human history, this museum traces humankind from its prehistoric roots to the sophisticated and sanguinary empire which Hernán Cortes faced on his arrival to the New World, up to modern times. It is not only the most important museum of its genre in Mexico, but, in fact, holds it own on a worldwide scale. Organized in a nice, neat and easily comprehensible fashion, intertwining the geographical areas of Mesoamerica with their chronological distinctions (the pillars of time-and-space, ubiquitous to all archaeological studies in the region), this monument to pre-Hispanic cultures covers it all.

The distinction of being an anthropologically oriented museum, rather than archaeological oriented museum, allows Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology a much broader parameters. In case you are wondering, anthropology studies people (anthropos means “human beings” in Greek, with the morpheme -logia meaning “the study of,” hence anthropology is the study of humans), traditionally grouping several specialities such as linguistics, physical (forensic, medical, biological, etc.) and social anthropology, archeology and ethnography under the same broad heading. That is how the material covered on the second floor of the museum ties in – ethnographic exhibits which showcase the existing (or barely surviving, depending on your point of view) descendants of the pre-Hispanic civilizations showcased on the ground floor exhibits, making up roughly 13% of Mexico’s population today, often referred to as “indigenous,” “autochtonous,” or “native” (but, please, not “tribes”).

The permanent collection of thousands and thousands or ancient artifacts – carved volcanic rock, ceramics, featherwork, jewelry, etc., is studded with sophisticated pieces – all elaborated by stone on stone technique. It is hard to imagine that such intricate work emerged from a stone age culture (that is, Mesoamerica was untouched by the Bronze Age or the Iron Age, in fact, only copper, silver and gold were being worked when Europeans descended on this continent). Detailed stone work, particularly evident in the post-classic Mexica room, in both dimension and intricacy is breathtaking and mind boggling. The Sun Stone, Coatlicue, Tizoc’s Stone, are but a few of the impressive pieces on view.   The ceramic pieces, particularly the beautiful and delicate items on display in the Oaxacan Halls would be collectors’ items if produced for the first time today.

Despite all the obstacles the early civilizations of Mexico faced (environmental, social, technological, shortage of materials and food, etc.) they survived and flourished …. much as the the modern people of Mexico still do today!



Welcome to Mexican Museums and Mavens!

I’ve lived in Mexico for many decades and have seen major changes in this exciting city.  It is purported that Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that were true.  Of course Mexicans love to break records (such as hosting the greatest number of Michael Jackson imitators in one place, the largest tamal in the world, the biggest outdoor ice skating rink, etc., as verified by Guinness Book of World Records), but whether this is a truism or not in the case of museums, my blog – Mexican Museums and Mavens –  has as its goal to explore the many museums scattered around the metropolitan area, as well as reporting on cultural activities and the fascinating people who make them happen.  Focusing on the positive things happening in the D.F. (there is too much negative publicity on the city and country in newspapers, radios and tvs everywhere), I hope to share with you  all sorts of amazing spots I have personally visited – temporary and permanent exhibits and museums, archaeological zones, cultural centers, lesser visited sites about town, ongoing activities, everything related to culture in the Big Enchilada – a mix of information and opinion to help you better get to know one of the most populous cities in the world.

Note about the name of my blog: So you’re asking yourself, what in the world is a maven?  According to the dictionary, a maven (often spelled as mavin, since it is the transliteration of a Yiddish word) is a “trusted expert in a particular field who seeks to pass knowledge to others.”  Thus, I have chosen not only to write about museums dotting the urban horizon of Mexico City, but also about the many people (contemporary and long gone) who make the capital city and Mexican culture what it is today.


Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized