Mexico National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) is one of the most important museum sites in Mexico and America. It is designed to house and exhibit the archeological legacy of the peoples of Mesoamerica, as well as to account for the country’s current ethnic diversity. The current MNA building was built between 1963 and 1964 in the Chapultepec Forest at the instruction of President Adolfo López Mateos, who inaugurated it on September 17, 1964. Currently, the MNA building has 22 permanent exhibition halls, two temporary exhibition halls and three auditoriums. Inside is the National Library of Anthropology and History.

The current headquarters of the National Museum of Anthropology was inaugurated on September 17, 1964 and, for more than five decades, has accomplished the mission of investigating, conserving, exhibiting and disseminating the most important archaeological and ethnographic collections in the country.

This icon of urban architecture of the twentieth century was designed to be, more than a repository, a space for reflection on the rich indigenous heritage of our multicultural nation. The 22 rooms and its more than 45 thousand square meters of construction make it the largest museum in Mexico and one of the most visited in the world.

In this important enclosure the archaeological and anthropological testimonies forged by multiple cultural groups are housed over hundreds of years of history; At the same time, it pays tribute to the indigenous peoples of Mexico today through a large collection that rescues the uses, representations, expressions, knowledge and traditions that are the nation’s intangible heritage and a legacy that belongs to all humanity.

The collection of the National Museum of Anthropology is made up of numerous archaeological and ethnographic pieces from all over Mexico. Among some of the most emblematic pieces of the collection is the Piedra del Sol – which is the heart of the museum itself – the colossal heads of the Olmec culture, the monumental Teotihuacan sculptures dedicated to the gods of water, Pakal’s tomb, the funeral offerings of Monte Albán, the stelae of Xochicalco, as well as a Toltec atlantean brought from Tollan-Xicocotitlan and the Tláloc Monolith that guards the entrance to the museum.

The MNA is one of the main tourist sites in Mexico. It attracts more than two million visitors every year. The museum is one of the largest museums on the continent.

Designed in 1964 by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, the monumental building contains exhibition halls surrounding a courtyard with a huge pond and a vast square concrete umbrella supported by a single slender pillar (known as “el paraguas”, Spanish for “the umbrella”). The halls are ringed by gardens, many of which contain outdoor exhibits. The museum has 23 rooms for exhibits and covers an area of 79,700 square meters (almost 8 hectares) or 857,890 square feet (almost 20 acres).

Originally the museum was in the old Mint, located on the street of the same name in the Historic Center, until President Adolfo López Mateos decides to change the collection to a new enclosure, which was located in “a triangular terrain and deforested belonging to the Ministry of Communications and located on the banks of the Chapultepec Forest… ”.

At the request of Jaime Torres Bodet, who was then secretary of Public Education, the architectural project is assigned to the Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, whose work was executed by the architects Ricardo de Robina, Rafael Mijares and Jorge Campuzano Fernández.

It was inaugurated on September 17, 1964, a month and a half before López Mateos left office, within the framework of the National Museum Program proposed by Torres Bodet, where the Museum of Modern Art was also inaugurated.

In the museography the sociopolitical organization, art, magic, religion, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, writing, urban planning and engineering of the different cultures were contemplated.

The museum comprises 45 thousand square meters of construction, of which only 30 thousand correspond to the exhibition areas, the others are destined to multiple services such as the academic area, library, restoration, conservation workshops, dioramas assemblies, warehouses and wineries, etc. The total area of the property is 79,700 square meters (almost 8 hectares). It has 23 rooms and 35,700 square meters of uncovered areas that include the central courtyard, the access plaza and some sunken courtyards around it.

In the conceptual stage it was sought that the building be integrated as a unit to the extensive garden area. “In the museum, architecture should not prevail over the content,…”. The distribution of the site is inspired by the open solution of Mayan architecture, where architecture is incorporated into the environment and outside areas.

The building to the main atrium opens with a completely glass entrance which connects to the lobby of 45 meters of clear clear.

In the courtyard, the proportion and volumetric texture is derived from the observation of the city of Uxmal. The pond located inside this courtyard and in front of the Mexica room refers to the lacustrine background of this culture. This room and the water mirror are joined through a white marble platform on which the four elements are represented: water, earth, symbolized by the ocher stone on which the snail sculpture rests (designed by Iker Larrauri ) and that represents the wind, and the fire (previously used to burn copal on a grill on ceremony days).

To maintain the freedom of movement inside the patio in the rainy season, it was equipped with an umbrella that covers an area of 84 by 54 meters. This element is the only one with concrete piles that work as an anchor to the ground; The load distribution was resolved with an isolated shoe foundation and covered with a bronze sculptural element designed by the sculptor José Chávez Morado.

The latticework, located on the top floor inside the courtyard, was designed by Manuel Felgueréz where he reinterprets a geometrized snake and materialized in anodized aluminum. The effect was to have this plant with a formal detail like the characteristic of Puuc architecture and contrasting with the ground floor free of decoration, marking only the accesses.

“Originally it was thought to install at the entrance on the Paseo de la Reforma and Gandhi Avenue, a great Mayan stela from the archaeological zone of Edzna ”but due to its limestone quarry material, it would be easily damaged by climatic conditions and Pollution of Mexico City. Finally, the Teotihuacan monolith of the god Tlaloc was brought from near Coatlinchan, near Chapingo.

The enclosure has two construction systems, steel and concrete structure. The front volume has a steel one that began to be produced at the factory to subsequently assemble on site and allow time for the requirement of easy and fast access of heavy machinery for the assembly of the umbrella cover. Simultaneously the construction of concrete structure was made.

The construction took 19 months, six were of construction and 13 of outdoor areas and the installation of the collections.

According to what was mentioned by architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez. “Gestation, design and construction of the National Museum of Anthropology at a cost of 160 million covered pesos by the CAPFCE, including staff salaries and corresponding to the INAH as to the tabs of the time. ”

A little over half a century ago, the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) is recognized as one of the most emblematic precincts for the safeguarding of the indigenous legacy of Mexico. It is a symbol of identity and a mentor for generations seeking their cultural roots.

At the end of the 18th century, by order of the viceroy of Bucareli, the items that formed part of the collection by Lorenzo Boturini — including the sculptures of Coatlicue and the Sun Stone — were placed in the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, forming the core of the collection that would become the National Museum of Anthropology.

On August 25, 1790, the Cabinet of Curiosities of Mexico (Gabinete de Historia Natural de México) was established by botanist José Longinos Martínez. During the 19th century, the museum was visited by internationally renowned scholars such as Alexander von Humboldt. In 1825, the first Mexican president, Guadalupe Victoria, advised by the historian Lucas Alamán, established the National Mexican Museum as an autonomous institution. In 1865, the Emperor Maximilian moved the museum to Calle de Moneda 13, to the former location of the Casa de Moneda.

In 1906, due to the growth of the museum’s collections, Justo Sierra divided the stock of the National Museum. The natural history collections were moved to the Chopo building, which was constructed specifically to shelter permanent expositions. The museum was renamed the National Museum of Archaeology, History and Ethnography, and was re-opened September 9, 1910, in the presence of President Porfirio Díaz. By 1924 the stock of the museum had increased to 52,000 objects and had received more than 250,000 visitors.

In December 1940, the museum was divided again, with its historical collections being moved to the Chapultepec Castle, where they formed the Museo Nacional de Historia, focusing on the Viceroyalty of the New Spain and its progress towards modern Mexico. The remaining collection was renamed the National Museum of Anthropology, focusing on pre-Columbian Mexico and modern day Mexican ethnography.

The construction of the contemporary museum building began in February 1963 in the Chapultepec park. The project was coordinated by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, with assistance by Rafael Mijares Alcérreca and Jorge Campuzano. The construction of the building lasted 19 months, and was inaugurated on September 17, 1964, President Adolfo López Mateos, who declared:

The Mexican people lift this monument in honor of the admirable cultures that flourished during the Pre-Columbian period in regions that are now territory of the Republic. In front of the testimonies of those cultures, the Mexico of today pays tribute to the indigenous people of Mexico, in whose example we recognize characteristics of our national originality.

The film Museo tells the story of the famous robbery to the National Museum of Anthropology on December 25, 1985, in Mexico City.

Architecture And Construction
The architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez materialized much of the pre-Hispanic tradition by building the National Museum of Anthropology in the heart of the Chapultepec forest, with the aim of fostering a large influx and at the same time providing affinity with the natural environment.

The museology of the new museum was planned to reflect the titanic work and the commitment acquired before such an important national event. All the rooms required the creation and integration of their own work team that included a body of scriptwriters, researchers, museographers, pedagogues and technicians.

The museum’s collections include the Stone of the Sun, giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization that were found in the jungles of Tabasco and Veracruz, treasures recovered from the Maya civilization, at the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, a replica of the sarcophagal lid from Pacal’s tomb at Palenque and ethnological displays of contemporary rural Mexican life. It also has a model of the location and layout of the former Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, the site of which is now occupied by the central area of modern-day Mexico City.

The permanent exhibitions on the ground floor cover all pre-Columbian civilizations located on the current territory of Mexico as well as in former Mexican territory in what is today the southwestern United States. They are classified as North, West, Maya, Gulf of Mexico, Oaxaca, Mexico, Toltec, and Teotihuacan. The permanent expositions at the first floor show the culture of Native American population of Mexico since the Spanish colonization.

The museum also hosts visiting exhibits, generally focusing on other of the world’s great cultures. Past exhibits have focused on ancient Iran, Greece, China, Egypt, Russia, and Spain.

Collection history
The collection of the National Museum of Anthropology dates back to 1790 from the findings of the monumental sculpture of Coatlicue, the Stone of the Sun, the Stone of Tízoc and the head of a Xiuhcóatl, thereby motivating the interest to know and protect the meaning of those cultural assets.

The Collections in the Street of Currency
The building of the current National Museum of Cultures, located on Moneda Street in the Historic Center of Mexico City, was the first headquarters of the former National Museum of Mexico. Its foundation in 1825 was part of the plot of public cultural institutions that the new nation required.

The Ethnographic Collections
The National Museum of Anthropology has a wide collection of ethnographic objects that bring together significant characteristics of the worldview and daily life of the indigenous peoples of contemporary Mexico.

The Collections In Their Current Environment
During the first half of the century, restructuring was carried out in the museum, which, together with the consolidation of specialized scientific disciplines, fragmented part of the National Museum’s collection among its headquarters.

Exhibition halls
The National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) has 24 exhibition halls, of which 23 are permanent and one is for temporary exhibitions, which are sometimes museum samples from various museums in the world.

The permanent rooms are distributed on the two floors of the building. The rooms dedicated to anthropology and pre-Hispanic cultures of the Mexican territory are located on the ground floor, from the Population of America to the Mesoamerican Postclassic Period. On the second level are the 11 ethnography rooms, where samples of the material culture of the indigenous peoples living in Mexico are currently exhibited.

The archeology rooms are arranged around the uncovered part of the central courtyard, which is where the pond is located, and are arranged according to a chronological criterion starting from the right side until reaching the Mexica room. From the hall of the cultures of Oaxaca, the order of presentation is geographical. It should be noted that the northern culture hall is dedicated to villages that belonged to the area known as Aridoamerica, a region that extends north of the boundaries of Mesoamerica.

Introduction to Anthropology
Room 1
The adaptations and changes experienced over millions of years permitted the development of physical, social, and cultural characteristics that defined modern-day human beings.

Populating the Americas (30,000–2500 BC)
Room 2
Climate change forced early hunter-gatherers to introduce a new means of subsistence: agriculture.

Preclassic Central Highlands (2500 BC–AD 100)
Room 3
Population growth and agricultural exploitation promoted the emergence of the earliest stratified societies.

Teotihuacan (AD 100–700)
Room 4
Teotihuacan was a pilgrimage center and economic power whose influence reached faraway regions within and beyond Mesoamerica, even after its decline

The Toltec and the Epiclassic (AD 700–1200)
Room 5
After the fall of Teotihuacan, independent centers such as Xochicalco, Cantona, and Cacaxtla arose, followed by the hegemony of Tula.

Mexica (AD 1200–1521)
Room 6
Tribute, agriculture, and trade were the three pillars of the economy of the Mexica Empire; its social development depended directly on warfare.

Room 7
Oaxaca was the setting for two great cultures: the Zapotec, builders of the city of Monte Albán and the Mixtec, renowned for their artistic creativity.

Gulf Coast
Room 8
At different moments of history, three cultural groups occupied this exuberant area: the Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec.

Room 9
The Maya employed complex writing systems to record events that marked the political life of their ruling dynasties.

West Mexico
Room 10
Various societies that lived in West Mexico stood out for their artistic expressions, their conception of the human body, and their metalworking technology.

Northern Mexico
Room 11
Northern Mesoamerica was the setting for multiple cultures that lived in large settlements, such as Paquimé and Alta Vista, or in small villages, as in the case of the Hohokam and Anasazi peoples.

Indigenous Groups
Room 12
Mexico’s Indigenous groups are the bearers of a cultural patrimony characterized by a distinctive worldview, religion, economy, ceremonies, dances, rituals, as well as veneration of the ancestors, social organization and everyday life.

Gran Nayar
Room 13
Cora, Huichol, Tepehuan, Nahua, and mestizos live side by side in the territory of Nayarit, Jalisco, and Zacatecas. They stand out for artistically rendering their worldview in beadwork, yarn painting, and power objects

Room 14
The Purépecha inhabited this Michoacán region since pre-Hispanic times. This ethnic group continues to practice ancestral activities such as fishing and celebrations.

Room 15
It shows their worldview, agricultural rituals, patron saints, and ancestors of the groups speaking Pame, Matlatzinca, Chichimeca-Jonaz, Mazahua, Otomí, and Ocuilteca.

Sierra de Puebla
Room 16
Totonac, Otomí, Tepehua, and Nahua converge in the Sierra de Huachinango-Xicotepec and the Sierra de Zacatlán-Cuetzalan. It displays their artistic specialization in basketry, featherwork, jewelry, textiles and paper.

Oaxaca: Southern Indigenous Peoples
Room 17
This zone comprises an area home to about 16 indigenous groups, including Mixtec and Zapotec. The collection highlights the region’s cultural diversity.

Gulf Coast: The Huas-teca and Totonacapan
Room 18
It features two regions: the Teenek and Totonac, from La Antigua River to Central Veracruz, northward to Pánuco in Tamaulipas. Totonac textiles and Huastec musical instruments are on display.

Lowland and Jungle Maya Groups
Room 19
The Maya of Yucatán and Quintana Roo and the Chol of Campeche are represented by rituals linked to agricultural fertility; the Chontal of Tabasco, by fishing; and the Lacandon of the Chiapas jungles by rites to the ancestors.

Highland Maya Groups
Room 20
It shows the indigenous groups in the Chiapas Highlands: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, and Mam through their religious practices and objects linked to music, textiles, and amber.

The Northwest: Sierras, Deserts and Valleys
Room 21
It focuses on aspects such as agricultural rituals, basketry, and the Deer Dance of groups such as the Seri, Papago, Cochimí, Yumano, Mayo, Yaqui, Tarahumara, Guarijío, Pima and Tepehua.

The Nahua
Room 22
Composed of various groups in 13 states in Mexico, the Nahua share the same ethnolinguistic family and certain distinctive cultural features.

Other permanent exhibition
The ballgame.
A replica of the pre-Hispanic ball game, whose court measures half of the original, was inaugurated in October 2005 in the Tolteca Hall garden.

The visitor can visit it and form an image of the area of a real court. Although it was originally intended to carry out ball games periodically, the fact is that there has only been one (the opening day) and no games are scheduled in the future.

The ball game, also known as “Pok Ta Pok” or “Ulama”, was a ritual game whose practice extended throughout the three thousand years of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican history.

Conservation Laboratory
The Conservation Laboratory is responsible for preserving and restoring the collection in the custody of the museum. Between 2009 and 2013, the work in this area changed focus and went from being a workshop to a laboratory to fully attend all collections. It is also dedicated to developing plans and projects to ensure the conservation and investigation of cultural heritage; Through the documentation of the manufacturing technique of the objects, the conservation status and the preparation of intervention proposals according to current criteria, interventions are carried out seeking to facilitate the understanding of the pieces. Some of the most common processes that specialists develop are: preventive conservation, applied and historical scientific research, registration, opinions and direct interventions on objects.

This area serves the collections of: archeology, ethnography, historical archives, modern and contemporary work and artistic architectural elements. In general, the mission of the laboratory is to be at the forefront in the investigation of constitutive materials and restoration materials for the best attention to heritage assets. For this, it seeks to promote scientific research, which is also achieved through national and international inter-institutional collaborations with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation (CNCPC), the National Research Institute Nuclear(ININ), the Polytechnic University of the Valley of Mexico (UPVM), the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museography (ENCRyM), the University of Florence, Harvard University, the International Center for Conservation and Restoration Studies (ICCROM ), among other.

Some of the most relevant conservation-restoration projects that have been carried out by the Conservation Laboratory are: the restoration of the funeral mask of Pakal, investigation of The Offering 4 of La Venta, the intervention and investigation of the manufacturing technique of the Monolito de Tláloc, which receives the public on Av. de la Reforma; the integral intervention of artistic elements of the Central Courtyard and the restoration of the huipil attributed to La Malinche.

The Institution
The current headquarters of the National Museum of Anthropology was inaugurated on September 17, 1964, and for more than five decades, it has fulfilled the mission of investigating, conserving, exhibiting and disseminating the most important archaeological and ethnographic collections in the country.

Since its conception, this icon of urban architecture of the twentieth century was designed to be, more than a repository, a space for reflection on the rich indigenous heritage of our multicultural nation. Its 22 rooms and its more than 45 thousand square meters of construction make it the largest museum in Mexico and one of the most prominent in the world.

In this important enclosure the archaeological and anthropological testimonies forged by multiple cultural groups are housed over hundreds of years of history; In turn, it pays tribute to the indigenous peoples of Mexico today through a large collection that rescues the uses, representations, expressions, knowledge and traditions that are the nation’s intangible heritage and legacy that belongs to all humanity.