It’s been an eventful few weeks here in Argentina. The presidential primaries happened, and also the value of the peso plummeted. Good times!
But before all that happened, I went to one of my favorite buildings in Buenos Aires, which happens to house the Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum.
The museum opened in 1826, owing to the work and advocacy of Bernardino Rivadavia. It was the first natural sciences museum in South America, and kind of a big deal. The current building, in the slightly-out-of-the-way-for-tourists Caballito neighborhood, was inaugurated in 1937. It’s got SO MANY ANIMALS.
There’s more, and I recommend walking around the inside and outside of the museum squealing in delight when you spot them.
When I visited, it was the winter break for the local schools, and the place was full of excited, noisy children. There was a line out the door and around the gate to get in when I was leaving around lunchtime. It was glorious. The children were even exclaiming over the minerals.
There is more than awesome rocks to see, of course. The museum does boast a large collection of native specimens, but it’s not limited to them. And who doesn’t love dioramas of successful hunts and dramatic battles for food and survival?
Giraffes aren’t the only ones who like to nibble trees.
Although you might know the species better as that “popcorn eating gazelle” meme.
This is a pretty photo-heavy entry, you guys, because I appreciate and value artistry.
There is a very nice hall of bird specimens, including some in dioramas of Argentina’s environs. This was my favorite one, because it happens to depict a park very near my house.
I especially loved the little riff on a fairly common stencil graffiti motif.
The bird wing (haha) is actually really good.
You might know, if you are into dinosaurs (you are, because everyone everywhere always is into dinosaurs), that Argentina is pretty rich in dinosaur fossils.
It’s no Sue, but it’s not at all shabby! There’s plenty of other native megafauna, too, which is great because ancient megafauna are so frickin’ weird.
There’s also a section of the building that covers the museum’s history.
At the start of the military dictatorship (no not that one) of 1966, faculties of the University of Buenos Aires were occupied by students, professors, and graduates in protest of the military’s overthrowing of the government. The protesters were violently removed, beaten, and arrested during La Noche de los Bastones Largos. The military ended university autonomy, hundreds of professors left the country, and research was quashed. It was an enormous setback for academia in Argentina. This is your pointed reminder that there’s no such thing as “sticking to science” because everything is political and education is the enemy of oppressors. So, study hard and fight evil.
Anyway, that’s a pretty big bummer, so how about a preserved giant squid’s eye as a palate cleanser.
The only objection I have to the Natural Sciences Museum is the aquarium hall (no photos were allowed). It’s very small, which is fine, but the tanks all look like the worst aquarium store that would be allowed to legally operate. The fish are in bare, small tanks with nearly no features aside from a layer of gravel. The lone piranha, sad enough because they are a schooling fish, had only a small plastic plant to hide behind, which it was trying to do the whole time I was in the hall. I really hope they improve the conditions for the fish soon.
The MACN is a really a lovely visit overall. It’s set in the Parque Centenario, a huge park with a small lake. Like all the bigger parks in the city, it’s a nice spot for bird watching (the tiny museum shop sells a guide to the park’s birds). Entry to the museum is a very reasonable 100 pesos (about $2 US, and as always subject to change). It’s open every day except holidays from 2pm to 7pm and easy to get to by bus and the B subway line. Check the website for up to day admissions, closures, and guided tour info.