Madrid’s Museo de América

Madrid's Museo de América

Art at the base of today’s museo

With snow, rain, and wind coming from all directions this past week, I needed to remind myself of sunny Spain. As I was digging in the archives for sun-drenched photos, I came upon an entry I never published on Madrid’s Museo de América. Below is my account from a visit there last (sunny!) May.

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According to the official website, the Museo de América started out as a part of Madrid’s Archeological Museum but was moved during the 1960’s to its current location near the Arco de Triunfo.

Madrid's Museo de América

Arco de la Victoria, or, What you’ll see on your walk to the museum

What I expected

Before I visited, I assumed the museum would be to Spain what the British Museum is to England–a collection of the spoils of colonized countries. While at times it seemed as if every other item was wrenched from the Amazon, I was surprised to find a great range of items from all over the Americas, including the U.S. and Canada. The initial hint of this came during one of the first rooms, which had artifacts from Hawaii.

Madrid's Museo de América

Museum art in the foreground, Faro de Moncloa in the background

Five themed sections

The museum is divided into five different sections, the first being El conocimiento de AméricaIn the first section, maps show the route European explorers took to reach the New World, and excerpts from their journals pepper the wall. One thing I’d never seen before were sketches of this foreign land as the Europeans envisioned them. The animals looked like they had wandered over from books on Greek mythology, and the people looked no more realistic. 

Madrid's Museo de América

One of the first rooms

La realidad de América showed how the Americas changed after European explorers set foot there. Large, illuminated maps showed the change in demographics–and the overall increase in numbers–of the population among different countries.

La sociedad held artifacts, pottery, paintings, and other objects from daily life.

Madrid's Museo de América

Madrid's Museo de América

Representation of traditional living–par for the museum course, right?

What I found

At first, this part of the collection was most what I expected the museum to be like. Then, the collection shifted to a long corridor on the phases of life (birth, childhood, marriage, death, etc.). While the museum’s aim with this section was to focus on the commonalities of the human experience, I found that putting photos of the Spanish royal family side-by-side with artifacts from Latin America was jarring and even tacky.

Madrid's Museo de América

Man from the Gulf of Mexico

The crux of the fourth area was La religión, a dizzying topic to tackle.  There was a wealth of information in this section including  funeral rites and all sorts of little gods and deities carved from wood and metal. Later, there was information about the religion introduced after European contact.

The fifth and last area, La comunicación, was perhaps the shortest of them all. It had a few old manuscripts and even copies of manuscripts too important to be on display.  It also held a bit on indigenous languages of the Americas and, of course, Spanish.

Madrid's Museo de América

This sealskin bag comes from Alaska

Madrid's Museo de América

Ornate Bolivian carnival costume

Madrid's Museo de América

And, of course, no history museum is complete without a room full of maps

Visitor’s info

To get to the Museo de América, take the metro to Moncloa or Islas Filipinas. Visiting hours are from 9:30 to 20:30 every day except for Sundays and holidays, when they are 10:00 to 15:00. Swing by on a Sunday for free entrance, or visit any other time for 3 Euros (1.50 for students).

Have you ever been to Madrid’s Museo de América? If so, what were your thoughts on it?

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13 Comments

  1. Interesting to see it all from their perspective, I bet. I’ve done a lot of reading on Spanish exploration of the New World lately. I’m sure this would would make a nice sauce for all that meaty reading.

  2. This is so bizarre, I was literally just thinking about checking this museum out this weekend, and then I open your blog to find this! It has to be fate! Will let you know if I manage to make it over, as I still have a visit to the nearby Museo de Traje pendiente!

  3. Cassandra

    @Pop – Put the museum on your to-visit-in-Madrid list!

    @Izzi – It is fate!! Let me know what you think if you make it there–and maybe I’ll even read about it on your blog 😉

  4. I lived right by this museum last year and always wondered if it was worth it. I visited Museo del Traje in the same neighborhood (when it was free) and didn’t find it to be worth my time. I guess the fact Museo de America was in the same neighborhood made me think it was a waste of time too. Do you recommend going to see it next time I’m in Madrid?

  5. Cassandra

    Interesting, I’ve never been to the Museo del Traje!

    I would recommend the Museo de America if you’re really into history; however I do like the Museo Arqueológico Nacional for it’s world-wide scope and prefer its presentation over that of Museo de America.

  6. The only one place I travelled to in Spain was Malaga, but Madrid has always been my favourite city. The museum seems like a very interesting place to me. Planning to visit it when I finally get myself sorted out with my Europe plans for this summer and go to Madrid.

  7. Cassandra

    Ohh, that sounds fun, Agness! Once your plans are coming together, don’t hesitate to ask any Madrid or Spain-related questions 🙂

  8. Interesting! I’ve never been to this museum, but I did see one that dealt with pre-Columbian America in Barcelona, which as pretty fascinating. Madrid has so many good museums though…I feel like you could spend a whole week just doing museum stuff!

  9. Cassandra

    Oh, definitely! There’s plenty here to keep you entertained if you’re a museum person. The same could be said for Barcelona!

  10. I’m always struck by awe when I see something in one part of the world that seems so strikingly familiar to another. For example, that clay man from the Gulf of Mexico looks really similar to haniwa, clay figures, which were often found buried with people of high rank in Japan. There are many types of haniwa, but I thought this guy was a pretty good example: http://library.manoa.hawaii.edu/images/art/haniwa.gif

  11. Cassandra

    Oh, wow, the figures from Japan and Mexico are strikingly similar! It is fascinating indeed how alike these characters are, being so separated geographically. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Will be trying to visit this museum on Wednesday morning! Thanks for blogging about it.

    • Cassandra

      Great! I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the museum’s presentation and themes.

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