National Museum of World Cultures, Mexico City, Mexico

The National Museum of World Cultures (MNC) is a national museum in Mexico City dedicated to education about the world’s cultures, both past and present. It is housed in a colonial-era building that used to be the mint for making coins. Prior to this, the site was the home of the location of the Moctezuma’s Black House. The mint was moved to Apartado Street in 1850, and the building was used for various purposes until it was converted to its current use in 1966.

The National Museum of Cultures occupies the building where the heritage exhibition was born in Mexico and is one of the five national museums of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. The only museum that shows objects of international origin gathered according to different ways of life, values, customs and beliefs that help us understand cultural diversity, rather than its beauty or its historical value.

National Museum of World Cultures define culture as the learned and shared forms of human behavior, such as rituals or traditional knowledge, which are transmitted from generation to generation and that includes the material results of this behavior: objects.

An Egyptian sarcophagus, bronzes and Chinese sculptures, an Inuit raincoat, an Chilkat blanket (Alaska) or a Sumerian tablet illustrate aspects of different groups that allow us to break the prejudice that there are more advanced cultures than others.

Currently the museum has the Mediterranean room. A sea of cultures, which integrates Egypt, Persia, Levante, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome; as well as the China room. In addition, cultural, artistic and academic activities, film cycles, workshops and readings are organized in their spaces.


Aztec site
The museum is located on the site of the original Aztec building that was a part of Moctezuma’s “New Palaces” complex called the “Casa Denegrida” (Black House) by Spanish conquerors, who described it as a windowless room painted in black. In here, Moctezuma would meditate on what he was told by professional seers and shamans. During the Conquest, this Black House, along with the rest of Moctezuma’s New Palaces was nearly destroyed. This site was part of lands given to Hernán Cortés by the Spanish Crown as a reward for the conquest of Mexico, and Cortés rebuilt the New Palaces/Black House complex in Spanish style, using much of the building materials of the old Aztec buildings. Cortes’ son later inherited this palace, only to later sell it back to Felipe V in order to establish the vice-regal palace.

Recently, excavations here and next door at the National Palace have unearthed parts of a wall and a basalt floor believed to be part of the Black House. More excavations are planned.

Colonial era mint
Originally, minting operations were based in the city hall. However, due to the increased prosperity of the colony and the need for more coin production, minting operations were moved here in 1731. The mint’s director at the time, Nicolás Peinado, was also an architect and made the initial plans. Worked was carried out by Pedro de Arrieta and Lorenzo Rodríguez. However, problems with the remodeling surfaced, resulting in the viceroy naming Jose Eduardo de Herrera to take over, and Peinado ended up in jail. The remodeling was finally completed by Luis Diez Navarro.

This mint is responsible for the name of the street on which it is located, called Moneda, which means “coin”. The building was again expanded between 1772 and 1779 by Miguel Constanzó, Lorenzo Rodriguez, and Jose Damian Ortiz de Castro.

Conversion to museum
In 1850, minting operations were moved to Apartado Street, and this building was used by a number of entities such as the Engraving School, the Supreme Court, minister of the interior and government graphic design department.

In 1865, Emperor Maximilian decided to put the Public Museum of Natural History, Archeology and History here, beginning with pieces donated by the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico and the National Museum founded by President Guadalupe Victoria in 1825. At the beginning of the 20th century, artist Rufino Tamayo painted the mural called “La Revolución” (The Revolution) in which he depicts the Mexican Revolution. This mural can still be seen in the lobby. While the museum was initially successful, it eventually declined and much of its collection was moved to other institutions. The collection of items related to natural history was moved to the Chopo Museum in 1909, and the collection of Mexican historical items were mostly moved to the museum at the Castle of Chapultepec in 1944. Much of the remaining items were transferred to the Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia by 1964.

National Cultural Museum
This colonial-era building was named a national monument in 1931, but when the new Museum of Anthropology opened the site was left vacant. Beatriz Barba and Julio César Olivé proposed that the space be converted into a museum featuring world cultures. After renovation, the building opened on 5 December 1965, with Barba serving as its deputy director until 1976 as the Cultural Museum, with rooms dedicated to demonstrating cultural artifacts from around the world. This museum dedicated to the world’s past and present cultures is the only one of its type in Latin America. The museum has sixteen permanent display rooms and three rooms for temporary exhibits. Some of the rooms are dedicated prehistoric cultures remains such as cave paintings and implements associated with the origins of sedentary, agricultural societies. Other rooms are devoted to ancient Mesopotamia as well as ancient Greece and Rome.

In the Age of Exploration room, items from the time of initial European contact with the Americas are on display. For modern cultures, there are exhibits from all continents and some dedicated to cultures little-known in Mexico such as that of Samoa or New Ireland. Since its founding, the museum has received over 12,000 pieces from around the world. These pieces include textiles, glass objects, porcelain, photographs, arms, kimonos, masks, jewelry and sculptures. Many of these objects are originals and some are quite old. The museum still receives donations of objects. One of the most recent is of board inlaid with mother-of-pearl from Vietnam.

The National Museum of Cultures shelters around 14 thousand objects, representative of various eras, coming from practically all over the world.

This exceptional collection highlights the unity of the human race and its cultural diversity based on archaeological pieces from America, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel, as well as an impressive display of classical culture and art that can be seen through the statuary of Greece and Rome Pieces from China, Korea and Japan, millenary countries that will soon be seen represented here, and imposing wooden masks and carvings that are part of the cultural wealth of Africa.

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Undoubtedly, the Museum’s collection will arouse the interest of the viewer, who will have the opportunity to take a look at the world through the cultural expressions of their peoples.

Revolution Mural
Revolution was painted in 1938 by the Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo, who, using the fresco technique, expresses in this work his vision of an important passage in the history of Mexico. Revolution, covers 80 square meters and presents a scene of the rebellion of workers and peasants against the bourgeoisie. It is located in the initial right wall and the top of two arches of the National Museum of Cultures.

The Revolution mural is the frame that adorns the entrance to the knowledge offered by the Pedro Bosch Gimpera Library.

Exhibition Rooms

International Hall
It complies with the characteristics established by international standards to host any type of exhibition with collections from the most important museums in the world

Mediterranean room:
A sea of cultures
It is made up of splendid collections from Greece, Rome, Egypt, El Levante, Mesopotamia and Persia. In this tour you can observe religious systems and rituals; political and administrative culture, mathematical application, astronomy, physics, literature, medicine, architecture.

China Room
The China Room is structured in three sections that address traditional Beliefs, Cultural Flowering and Commercial Exchange

It is an innovative and contemporary project that integrates in a single space concepts of media library, playroom and reading room in an environment of great flexibility, with a relaxed environment that encourages the free movement and interaction of different users.

Its purpose is to establish, through interactive technologies, new alternatives for contact with visitors and trigger positive and pleasant experiences linked to the enjoyment of art, play and culture.

In this space, the visiting public can find and relate to the great diversity of approaches or views around the cultures of the world according to their own interests.

Pedro Bosch Gimpera Library
It is an old and renovated place that invites knowledge. It has a collection close to five thousand volumes of books; 32 titles of journals specialized in the study of museum collections; music, documentary videos and author films from some countries of the world.

The Pedro Bosch library is the bibliographic base of international anthropology research in Mexico. Due to the quality of its books and documents focused on ethnology, history, archeology, geography, literature and art, among other great topics, it is an inexhaustible source for any specialist who wants to obtain documentary information on cultural diversity. in the world.

Having a decent space for your bibliographic collection is the platform to integrate the MNC Documentation and Research Center.

Educational Room
In the Educational Room the visitor will be able to know different cultural manifestations from around the world. Through entertaining recreational activities and with the help of a guide, you can assimilate the cultural variety of the 242 countries of the world, as well as its tangible and intangible heritage.

Located on the ground floor of the museum, this multimedia room is the ideal window for a better understanding and enjoyment not only of this one, but of any museum. It also has access facilities for people with different abilities..

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