El Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Bernardino Rivadavia [The Bernardino Rivadavia Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences]

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.

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So, ya like spiders?

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.

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OWLGOYLE
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INTERIOR CEILING BAT

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.

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To be fair, there was some pretty great fluorite and stuff that grows in distinctive shapes.

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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?

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This warthog, I guess, is not all that thrilled with dioramas of successful hunts and dramatic battles for survival.

Giraffes aren’t the only ones who like to nibble trees.

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Gerenuks do too, and are actually also called “giraffe gazelles,” which I didn’t even notice until I looked it up just now.

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.

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“NEEDS MORE BLOOD”

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.

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A good place for birding and Pokemon Go.

I especially loved the little riff on a fairly common stencil graffiti motif.

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Look I’m never gonna be good at taking photos but most importantly why doesn’t the MACN have this on a t-shirt

The bird wing (haha) is actually really good.

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Andean condors have great personalities.

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.

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TA DA

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.

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HUG ME
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SKELETON DRAMA

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Not a boulder hunt; those are glyptodons.

 

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And some Glyptodon tails were BANANAS.

There’s also a section of the building that covers the museum’s history.

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I’m starting to feel real bad about the terrible photos. The MACN doesn’t deserve this.
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Guess what dictatorships aren’t fond of.

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.

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The best part is the museum’s snack area is right around here too, so Squidward here can watch you eat.

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.

Tinytour: Museo de Arquitectura y Diseño [Museum of Architecture and Design]

The MARQ is a small building that seems to be used primarily as temporary show space.  It’s the only architecture museum in the country.  The building dates from 1915 and used to be the water tower for the Retiro train station.  It is currently one of the sites of a BIENALSUR contemporary art installation called “House Attack.”

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The MARQ building, having a normal one.

The exhibition, called Invading/Resisting, is also tied to BIENALSUR.  It’s a multimedia collaborative work on the interplay of the actions of humans and the natural world.

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ATMOSPHERE.
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This is a Tinytour because it’s a wee space!  You’ll just have to see what’s showing when you’re looking to go.

The MARQ is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1pm to 8pm.  It’s located near Retiro train station.  Admission is free and they have a tiny swag store, and I honestly respect the hustle.

Museo Judío de Buenos Aires [Jewish Museum of Buenos Aires]

Well, hello, 2019.  I have been a terrible writer.  I was in the US for the end of December and all of January, and even though I took with me a backlog of museum visits to work on while I was there, it obviously never happened because a good 97% of my focus at home is devoted to getting tacos.  Thank you for your understanding.

So now I’m home, and also sick, which is a great condition for acclimating to the change in time zone, but whatever, my point is I have time.  So–

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This is the Museo Judío de Buenos Aires, and if you’re thinking that’s a bit unassuming and you might miss it, don’t worry, because this is the temple next door:

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You are not going to miss it.

The museum is connected to the Templo Libertad, the central synagogue of Buenos Aires.  It faces the same stretch of squares as the Teatro Colón and the Supreme Court building.  I’ll touch on the history of Jewish Argentines lightly as I go here, but Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, and their history is, of course, extensive.

Visitors to the museum will encounter first a heavy, locked door, and they must be buzzed into the antechamber.  Visitors are at this point required to show identification to the doorman, who sits behind a shield.  After that, the doorman is able to buzz visitors through the next heavy, locked door.  You will find extra security precautions at many Jewish schools and synagogues in the city; 1992 and 1994 saw two major terrorist attacks against the Jewish community (the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center [AMIA], respectively).  They are accustomed to foreign visitors, and passports are welcome forms of identification.

Inside, you will find a warm and welcoming staff.  The signage is in Spanish, although an audioguide is available in multiple languages for download on smartphones, so bring some headphones.  It does not appear that the guide is linked on the museum’s website, so it requires Internet access within the building or a local data plan.  I hope they consider linking it in the main website so it can be downloaded prior to visiting.  I also hope they expand the content someday, as it is on the lean side, but nevertheless a pleasant way to tour the museum.

The museum’s collection is entirely donated, and it includes ancient artifacts:

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Bronze Age oil lamps made of clay

As well as a few contemporary art pieces here and there:

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…which is a nice touch, a reminder of the museum’s place within a community that is both ancient and living.

Most of the items are from the 19th and 20th centuries.  This is a 19th century Polish Tanahk (Hebrew Bible) in miniature that could be hidden on one’s person as necessary.

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There are other religious texts and cases:

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…as well as items related to Jewish life from all over the world:

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“Tallit Bag”–the glare is obscuring the label there.

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An example of a table set for Passover

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In the late 1800s-early 1900s, there was a large number of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, escaping violence and attracted by Argentina’s liberal immigration policy.  Thousands settled into agricultural life, and Jewish gauchos became a thing.

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Alberto Gerchunoff emigrated to an Argentine Jewish agriculture colony as a small child from what is now Ukraine, and later became a writer, although gaucho seemed to be a better look on him.

My favorite part was the Menorah collection!

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Also the Torah pointer, which is just a really practical design.

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YOU ARE HERE

Visitors can also see the temple itself, which is very impressive, and hosts an active congregation.

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The museum has a small gift shop.

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For game day.
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Don’t worry; God doesn’t play favorites.

A unique history museum and worthwhile visit, the Museo Judío de Buenos Aires is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.  The entry fee is a relatively steep US $10 for foreigners (but currently 80 pesos for Argentine residents and 50 pesos for Argentine retirees).  It’s easy to get to via the B and D subway lines and a multitude of buses, and just down the street from Teatro Colón, so it’s right in the thick of things.

Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria [Museum of Water and Sanitation History]

Let me tell you, I have been a huge fan of sanitation infrastructure since reading The Ghost Map.  No part of that sentence is exaggeration.  It’s difficult to appreciate modern sanitary standards until you read about a virulent cholera outbreak, and the sheer amount of sewage in the drinking water.  Yum.

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This is my local basketball team.

Definitely read that book, by the way.

Anyway, you will find the Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria (Museum of Water and Sanitation History) in a very eye-catching building in Buenos Aires.

 

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There’s a lot to look at here.

This is the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, or Palace of Running Waters, which is incidentally the name of my future chalet. It was completed in 1894, designed to be a water pumping station.  That’s right; this glorious eclectic construction of English terra cotta tiles, a French mansard roof, and polished landscaping was built to be a water tank cozy.

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Makes an impressive entry for a sanitation museum.

Today, the Water Palace houses administrative offices for AySA, the state water company, in addition to the museum (and archive and library).

The museum devotes a good deal of its space to the building’s construction and history.

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After the section dedicated to the building, there are…

PIPES!

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I’m 100% sure there is a fancy word for these that I cannot remember.
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This pipe is made of wood!

Faucets!

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Not gonna lie; I do love a faucet key.

And a model of the Radio Antiguo area’s English-style drainage system, which collected storm water in addition to sewage.  Not every sewage system does that, you know.

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Miss me with your wastewater-only pipelines, Boca and Barracas.

Historical artifacts of the water company (once called the Obras Sanitarias de la Nacion or OSN, no I was not kidding about the basketball team) are also in the museum.  There’s an office from the 1920s-1940s era:

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A magazine published for the nation’s sanitation workers:

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I used to get a magazine from my national professional association, and I think this one is cooler.

Various and sundry piping-related materials, catalogs, and certificates:

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Is…is this an anatomically accurate depiction of a water drop?

But I know what you’re thinking.

“Does this sanitation museum include toilets?  Because honestly why even bother otherwise.”

Well of COURSE it has toilets.

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Antique toilets.
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Old timey toilet tank!
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An old sink and Turkish squat toilet.
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A portable bidet and good reminder to thank your lucky stars that all your butt-related fixtures are connected to pipes.
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Prison toilets.
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The sign says these toilet bowls “were a more modest alternative to the pedestal.”  Which, yes.                The lower one is a squat toilet from 1900.
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They even let you see the toilets and items that are not currently on official display.

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This room is scented by an air freshener that took me a moment to place, but is in fact the most common air freshener used in public toilets in Buenos Aires.  I thought that was a nice touch of ambiance.

Visitors can also see the interior of the building–the former water tanks.  The space has some of the larger artifacts and photographs relating to the history of water and sanitation service in the city.

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This building is undoubtedly haunted.  You can tell that even before you hear the stories of suicide and murder in it.

 

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This is a 1948 mercury vapor valve, and according to the label it is a “device for rectification of alternating current into direct current.”  It was used until 2000.

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There’s a water station!  If you take the tour, you can have some.

If you aren’t on the tour, there are screens with virtual guides giving short talks throughout the museum.

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Are there interactive exhibits?  Heck yes there are, in a manner of speaking.

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Stick your faces right in!

Bonus:  Currently, there is also an art exhibit on the Antarctic.

 

The architecture alone is worth stopping by, and if you’re already there, the museum is certainly fun and doesn’t require much time.  There is also a shop!  A case just outside the museum shows its wares, which include the most affordable post cards in Buenos Aires, outside of free ones.  Museo del Agua y de la Historia Sanitaria is a couple blocks from the D line of the subway and open Monday through Friday, from 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm.  Guided visits in Spanish are at 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Pilgrimage to Luján!

Hahahaha, no not that pilgrimage.

Luján is a popular, actual religious pilgrimage destination as the site of a large Neo-Gothic basilica and the 388-year-old icon therein.

 

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It’s pretty impressive.

That icon is Our Lady of Luján, the official patron saint of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. I neglected to get a photo but it was Good Friday and the basilica was super full. The icon was commissioned for a man in Santiago del Estero, but when the caravan parked in present-day Zelaya, the oxen refused to continue until the statue was unloaded. This was seen as a miracle. The Virgin clearly wanted to stay in a tiny podunk that happened to be much, much closer to Buenos Aires than Santiago del Estero. That didn’t stop someone from moving her about 50 km away to the larger podunk of Luján 40 years later. The basilica was started in 1890.

 

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Goth

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But ALSO in Luján are some museums! I was only there for the afternoon so I didn’t even see them all! What I did see is coming up next!