Stepping inside, however, reveals a slick space of vibrant color, from the enormous performance posters to the magic, clown, and practical joke props for sale. Visiting during normal shop hours will also grant you a look at a (small for museum but large for personal, which it is) collection of magic artifacts, including original posters from the 19th and 20th centuries, props, photos, and books. Most of it centers on one stage magician in particular.
There was once a famous magician named David Bamberg, who was the seventh, and final, member of the Bamberg dynasty of Dutch magicians. During the first half of the 20th century, he performed in Chinese-style clothing under the fakey Chinese and remarkably racist name Fu Manchu.
Odd place for a lot of the stuff belonging to a UK-born itinerant magician of Dutch extraction to end up, right? Well, David Bamberg started using the stage name “Fu Manchu” in Buenos Aires, and eventually retired here and opened a magic school. He died in the city in 1974.
The museum is a small room, so it only takes a few minutes to look around, but if you’re interested in vintage magic stuff in general or David Bamberg in particular, you’re going to like it.
There is also a cabinet of mid-century Argentine magic props. The sign says the staff will not tell you how they work.
Visit the Argentine Museum of Magic in the Bazar de Magia during store hours every day but Sunday, but they break for lunch–check the website for hours. The store not only has magic props and gags, there’s also books on magic (even some in English). You can walk there from the Plaza de Mayo, and it’s around the corner from the Avienda de Mayo stop on the C line.
From my scant education in art history, I picked up a couple of things about J. M. W. Turner: I love him, and he used very, very long titles. Also that he was very prolific. Ok, so three things.
Eighty-five watercolors from the span of Turner’s career make up the show. They do not disappoint.
These two are from earlier on in his life, and you can read details about the paintings written by people more knowledgeable than I at the links, which go to the Tate’s website.
For my part, I enjoy looking at Turners from different distances. Here is The Destruction of the Bards by Edward I (c. 1799-1800). It’s a wild, beautiful landscape. Maybe you’re wondering where the slaughter of the bards is going on though.
The landscapes (and seascapes) are my favorites, with the expressive colors and elusive atmosphere. I feel like I’m clearly looking at a scene, without being able to pinpoint what I’m looking at. Does that make sense? I feel like it doesn’t, but it’s the best I can do.
Moving through his career and life in the form of his watercolors is a fine way to spend an afternoon. The explanatory signage is in both Spanish and English. The ticket into the show is AR$100, but it is free on Tuesdays and the rest of the week after 645pm (the museum is closed Mondays). The temporary exhibition pavilion is rather tucked away, so hold on to your ticket and follow your map, as the path isn’t obvious. As a major museum, swag is of course available, although Turner-specific swag has just two images to choose from. The exhibition closes February 17, 2019.
I need to get this posted, because I was told that this museum will be closing next month, which sucks, because it’s pretty cool. It has a strong online presence, a good physical space, and a great staff. It will be a loss.
The MUMIN (MUseo de MINerales, get it?) is the educational endeavor of the SEGEMAR, the Servicio Geológico Minero (Argentine Mining Geological Service). It caters mainly to school groups, tasked with making rocks interesting to children. Geology, being perhaps not the sexiest of sciences, could make that a bit difficult to achieve, but they have done an admirable job. Things to touch, demonstrations to look at–there’s a lot of activity for minerals.
The museum is located within a government ministry building, the name of which escapes me at the moment–but you do need an ID to get in.
I poked around on my own until a staff member came out, discovered my terrible Spanish, and immediately went back to send out a very patient English-speaking geologist. He showed me around the museum, told me about all the displays, and answered all my questions. Let’s see a little of the collection! Argentina has a lot of mineral-related loot.
So, do you have a favorite kind of fossilized thing? ‘Cause I do.
“That’s cool,” you’re thinking. “BUT ARE THERE PRETTY ROCKS”
The museum does have an app available on the website that will do AR stuff with a few signs as well as a VR headset with a short meteorite thing to watch; nothing extravagant but fun and memorable. There are a few more hands-on elements to see/do, including some SUPER FUN SAND TABLES:
If you move the sand around, the volcano changes:
There’s another one!
In this table, you move the sand around to form the topography of the land. Then you can make it rain by spreading your hand. The idea is to demonstrate how water moves over the topography.
Know what else I liked? This Argentina-specific graphic of geologic time:
Wanna see more minerals?
I will never not find it fascinating that some minerals naturally grow in distinctive shapes.
Finally, I will close this out with a geode.
The label doesn’t tell you this but the very nice geologist will, this geode is an enhydro agate–a geode with water inside of it. Did you know that was a thing? I had no idea that was even a thing!
The MUMIN is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm (closed on holidays). Take your ID though because you need that to get in. It’s very close to the Plaza de Mayo and easily accessible by all the subway lines that go there. Go while you can.
The Ethnographic Museum is under the auspices of the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras of the University of Buenos Aires. It was founded in 1904, and it while it houses collections from other places in the world, it’s focused chiefly on this part of South America. There is a lot of information available on the English-language website.
There are several exhibitions, and I’m not going to talk about all of them, because that would be a lot. The first one, The Uttermost Part of the Earth, addresses the native populations of Tierra del Fuego, and what happened to them. It’s not a happy story.
There were two groups that had lived in the area for thousands of years: sea hunters (Kaweshkar and Yamana) and land hunters (Selk’nam). That went fine for awhile.
The hall is set up with the items of the Native peoples on the left, and items that would be used by explorers and colonizers on the right. A model of a Yamada-style canoe is in the center. There is a guide at the beginning of the hall that translates all the text into English.
Let’s take a look at the Native artifacts first.
Meet Robert Fitzroy, captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that Charles Darwin sailed around South America on:
Now meet O’run-del’lico, a Native boy kidnapped by Fitzroy in retaliation for a stolen boat, who was renamed “Jemmy Button” because his family was given a button for him while he was taken back to England for a long time.
He and three other kidnapping victims, renamed York Minster, Fuegia Basket and Boat Memory, because no indignity was too small to inflict on them apparently, were supposed to be “civilized,” Christianized, and returned to Tierra del Fuego to serve as missionaries and intermediaries. Boat Memory died in England. The other three dropped Europeanism like a hot brick and reintegrated into their tribe immediately on their return.
“Hey,” I can hear you asking, “what other insanely racist things resulted in contact with Natives?” Hahaha.
The Selk’nam didn’t long survive sustained contact with non-Natives, which would come to include actual contract murder. The very last died in the 1970s. I’ll end this part with a song, included in the museum’s English guide and I believe from Anne Chapman’s book The End of a World, of the last shaman, Lola Kiepja (recordings available at that link):
The next exhibition is “Challenging the Silence: Indigenous People and the Dictatorship,” so the reading isn’t going to get any lighter here.
The last military dictatorship (supported by the US, I might add), as I’m sure you’re aware, is still very much in living memory here. Visitors are encouraged to leave a Post-It on the wall, which says, “How to challenge the silence?”
It will come as no surprise that Native rights and labor organizers ran afoul of the dictatorship.
The exhibition includes information on how the sugar mills (having been the beneficiaries of military muscle keeping workers in check and working for decades) would act as agents of the dictatorship, informing on workers and allow their land to be used for clandestine detention centers. One company’s own vehicles detained over 400 activists, 30 of which were never seen again.
The exhibit also examines the museum’s own contribution to the erasure of Native cultures during the dictatorship, which celebrated the “Centenary of the Conquest of the Desert” in 1979, which could more accurately be characterized as the centenary of the genocide of the Native peoples. So, sure, parade time.
Let’s take a gander at the artifacts that live upstairs, and channel our inner (or outer) textile nerds.
This exhibit covers a lot of ground and A LOT of time, there was an entire class of children occupying a large part of the room (and I never, ever begrudge children their space in learning institutions–I just didn’t get to the more recent artifacts because their activity was taking up a lot of floor space, but they were really engaged and two thumbs way up to the museum for having a hands-on activity for them), and my dinky little minor in anthropology did not equip me for being a great source on pre-Colombian history, so let’s hit this in broad strokes.
Here’s the region we’re looking at:
The exhibit covers about 4000 years of cultural development in the region (following roughly 6000 years of hunter-gatherer societies), beginning with the earliest domestication of crops and animals.
As things settled into the first millennium CE, society got less egalitarian and chiefdoms formed. Power became hereditary and ancestor worship was socially important.
Along with the integration of groups into a large political entity came more defined social stratification and a centralization of power and activity.
But nevermind the increasing sophistication of craftsmanship, particularly metalworking, and restricted luxury goods that signified social status, let’s get back to the textiles.
The loom comes into use, and surviving textiles show that weavers developed into specialized master craftspeople, just as the metalworkers and ceramics makers did.
Of course, everything goes to hell when the Europeans arrive, as it does. That was the area that the school children were working in, so I didn’t get photos over there.
The exhibition room is large, and there are a lot of stairs, but they’ve used the space well. Old houses present a lot of challenges when they’re used as public institutions, and they’ve done a nice job with this one. If steps are an issue for you, be aware that there are lots.
There’s more to see at the Ethnographic Museum, which is open Tuesday through Friday from 1pm to 7pm and 3pm to 7pm on weekends (closed Monday). There’s a small shop if you’d like to support the museum by upping your swag game. Admission is 40 pesos (about a US dollar currently), and it’s super easy to get to on subway lines D, A, and E and tons of buses.