A World of Curiosities
Well we have now. It’s Friday afternoon and classes have finished. The decision has been made to move on from Xela, to go and see Tikal, Semuc Champey and wind our way down to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica for Christmas. What better to do than wander around the Museum of Natural History, housed in a grand building that sits on the edge of Xela’s Parque Central. I have to say in terms of “bang for the buck” this has to be one of the best value museums ever. Bear in mind it doesn’t cost too many bucks, so it isn’t that large, but the quasi-random variety of bits and pieces more than makes up for that. Words like cornucopia, esoteric and Fortean spring to mind.
Just next to the market at the base of the park and housed in a very imposing building (all steps and columns), you pay 6Q (or 50p) for entry. On the left is the first gallery manned by two attendants and lots of signs admonishing you to remain “Silencio”.
Technology is the first up, with a strange selection to follow:
- computer keyboards (with built-in speakers), ancient RS machines with dual 5-inch floppy drives, a Mac II, an old telephone patch bay, an old cordless phone, part of a telephone exchange from 1968 and some computer network cards.
- a gallery dedicated to the Liberal Revolution, with weapons and personal possessions of some protagonists and documentation of the constitutional changes. A strange portrait shows Roberto Molina in a chair, with blood running down his face and pooling on the floor. Has he been shot? Below sits the ornate chair with embroidered back. Did he die in that?? Next to it a cane, the one he holds in the portrait??? And yes, he was shot!
- the next room is trophies: everything in all sports from recent to early 1900s.
- finally a tribute to some famous local musicians, music librettos, publicity posters, marimbas made from gourds and an opera presumably written in Xela.
Then it’s back out, across the entrance hall and upstairs. The main gallery houses lots of ancient statuettes and fragmented carvings. On the walls a series of rush weavings with portraits of the Mayan gods. The Mayan and cultural symbology from this region seems extremely complex and is definitely something interesting to study given time.
Finally the natural history room, which is fabulous. Imagine the National Museum of Scotland (for those who have been there) with all the stuffed animals. Shrink it to the size of a gift shop, pack densely and give the exhibits a time-worn feel. This is a room where you continually notice more and more: an armadillo under a human skull, a two-bodied stuffed lamb, a whale skull, the aforementioned foetus, a tray full of exotic bugs, all kinds of stuffed birds looking very tired and much more. The taxidermy is questionable but provides an eerie whilst comical quality.
I am not sure I’d spend a night in there but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Definitely the best 50p spent in a long time. Okay here it is …