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.

San Agustin del Valle Fértil: Museo Piedras del Mundo [Rocks of the World Museum]

Recently, I was on a road trip to the provinces of San Juan and La Rioja.  The main point of the trip was to see Parque Ischigualasto, Parque Talampaya, and guanacos.

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Mission accomplished.

But, there was an opportunity to take in one of my favorite type of little museums: a personal collection that got wildly out of hand.  This is the Museo Piedras del Mundo:

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The enterprising proprietor of the museum has put together three rooms of displays, which he will lead you through (Spanish only).  The main gallery boasts a hell of a rock collection.

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Pains are taken to give information on the chemistry of various minerals, which are indeed from around the world.  There are also sections dedicated to the local geology.

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And from the Argentine territory of the Antarctic.

A second room houses local archaeological finds (the region is rich in fossils and ancient human-made relics, as well as impressive rocks)…

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…and also some truly alarming local creepy crawlies.

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Remember, your hotel absolutely cannot keep them out! Sleep tight!

The third room houses the seashell, fish specimen, and photography collection (all the photos were taken by the museum owner).

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You will easily burn more time in the museum than you thought you would.  And it’s a fun little place!  It is maybe just past the middle of nowhere, if you’re coming from San Agustín, closer to a very, very small village called Usno.  There’s literally nothing around the place.  It is, if I recall correctly, $100 pesos for entry, and it’s open from 8am to 7pm daily.  He’s also got a little gift shop.

 

MUNTREF Centro de Arte y Naturaleza [MUNTREF Center of Art and Nature]

I am still recovering from a “flu-like” virus, which wasn’t too bothersome as I mainly slept for three days, but I managed to make a quick visit to the Centro de Arte y Naturaleza (part of the Museums of the National University of Tres de Febrero, which also includes the Museo de la Inmigración).  It’s in a really lovely building on the perimeter of the old Buenos Aires Zoo, which was chiefly built around the turn of the 20th century and as such is a fascinating example of old zoo architecture but was closed down for being a cruelly terrible zoo.

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In 2016.

Despite being technically within the limited-capacity (now called) Buenos Aires Eco-Park, a transformation that has not been going well, incidentally, the Centro is accessible from the outside, although you can peek out the back windows and see the maras wandering around the grounds:

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The maras are large Patagonian rodents that were always allowed to range freely within the zoo.

The Centro itself faces the large and busy Av. Sarmiento:

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You cannot move in.

It’s quite small and doesn’t take much time to visit–but it is free, has a helpful staff, changes exhibits entirely every few months, and is right within a nexus of other attractions, making it an easy addition to any plans that include La Rural or the Botanical Gardens, or any other of the numerous museums and gardens within walking distance.

Two artists are currently featured.  The first floor holds Zoología Fantástica, by Argentine biologist and artist Pablo La Padula.  From the description on the MUNTREF website: “…it invites us to re-read the historical-cultural markers that reside in scientific devices and their interpretations, as well as in the decisions that are made for scientific dissemination, and the forms that these constructions assume in the social imagination. The materials that are used, the assembly, the lighting and the organization system, come together to place the spectator in the place of the scientist.”

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Man, remember the ear mouse?

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The upstairs houses a show by Peruvian artist Claudia Coca called “Do Not Tell Me I Do Not Know How to Catch the Wind.”  It examines the city’s life forms and their interaction, and includes embroidered verses.

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“Who is the one that, like the tiger, rides the wind with a ghostly body?”

If you’re already in the area, and if you spend much time in Buenos Aires at all you eventually will be, pop into the Centro and see what they have showing.  It’s free and open Wednesday to Sunday from 2pm to 7pm.  I really hope they put whale kid on a postcard.

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Museo de Patología de la Universidad de Buenos Aires [Pathology Museum of the University of Buenos Aires]

The Museo de Patología was the first museum established within the University of Buenos Aires, in 1887.  The first specimens came from the medical school hospital, and later, small collections from other hospitals were incorporated, making the museum an interesting piece of heritage for the medical school.

Sooooooooo…..

This museum is really a collection of specimens in jars.  Like, body parts. There were so many fetuses, you guys.

As you might imagine, the museum has a notice posted admonishing visitors to consider the collection a place of learning and reflection and not a freak show gawk fest. Understandably then, photographing the specimens within is not permitted, and I did respect that. But holy shit there are people who did not and so there are photos available on Google Maps. They don’t include what were grimmest for me personally, so yay?

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The museum is tucked away on the third floor of one of the UBA’s medical school buildings. You can just walk in, sign in, deposit any backpack you might be carrying in a locker and continue to the collection. Before you enter the actual zone, you might take a look at the exhibits they have outside the door.

Stock-photo cool guys are prohibited.

These exhibits have a few of the milder specimens, and give some information about the pathologies involved.  If you’re disappointed by the lack of a human specimen example for mermaid syndrome, don’t worry–you can find one inside, you absolute lunatic.

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This is the head of a sheep with cyclopia. There is a human specimen inside. There’s a lot of sad stuff inside.

Ever wonder what the effects of tuberculosis look like on the inside?  You are in luck, buddy.

 

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Lung holes. It looks like lung holes. Although it can also mess up  literally everything.

This case explains that tuberculosis is a common infection in Argentina; one in three people have come into contact with the bacteria. There are three possibilities in case of contact: the body fights it off completely (ya good), the body doesn’t fight it off (ya sick), or the body fights it off just enough to prevent symptoms but not eliminate the bacteria (ya latent). It lays out the risk factors for developing the disease, and now you can lie awake at night, contemplating the fragility of the human condition.

This here is a fatty liver.

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Also from a tuberculosis patient, incidentally. I would like to note that the Wikipedia entry for “fatty liver” begins with “Not to be confused with foie gras,” which makes this my favorite “not to be confused with” label ever.

The display on liver health includes very helpful emojis.  While that might seem a bit jarring juxtaposed with actual diseased human organs, I actually appreciate the effort made to communicate the information visually and clearly.  Science museum exhibits are introductions, not text books.

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If actual french fry cartons came like this, I might be successfully guilted into ordering the smallest size.

Inside, the museum is apparently undergoing a bit of a renovation, although what that entails isn’t clear; presumably the jugs of formaldehyde on the floor will at least get a cabinet during visiting hours.  The whole museum is two large rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, crowded with shelves and shelves of specimen jars grouped by pathology.  The labeling is minimal, and includes no context information.  This didn’t really bother me–aside from making it a collection for a highly specific audience that does not include me, museum-going boob Jo Public–until the tattoos.  There are several pieces of skin (and one entire hand) displayed specifically for their tattoos.  My exceedingly-chill-about-going-to-see-corpse-pieces friend and I estimated, based solely on a couple of dates included in the tattoos themselves, that they were probably around 100-125 years old.  We also assumed they came from indigent patients at the medical school hospital.  However, there is nothing to really confirm this in the labeling.  There were a couple that seemed to have belonged to a sailor (sailors?) that had an anchor and the USA and Norwegian flags.  There were a couple of examples of basic line drawings of circus performers, like a trapeze girl (boobs out) and a strong man.  The subject matters also seemed to bear out our extremely rough idea of their age and origin.  Tattoos are not a pathology, so the lack of context here was galling.  I really, really wanted to know how old they were, who they belonged to, how they came to be preserved.  This was easily the most interesting part of the collection, for me.  As a museum that specifically includes the public in its mission, it would be nice for it to have more explanatory and educational displays.  A cohesive exhibit about the history of the museum would be very cool, too.

Aside from all the jars, the museum also includes a historical library of pathology books in various languages as well as historical laboratory equipment.  It is, as I mentioned, open to the public, but if you’re bothered by preserved body parts (think torsos and heads, not just organs and tissue), it’s best to give it miss.  There is no signage in English, and since using your translation app is easily mistaken for photography, you’re on your own if your Spanish is terrible. The museum is located in a medical school building a couple blocks from the D subway line.  It’s open Monday through Friday from 2pm to 6 pm, and it is free.