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.
The Centro itself faces the large and busy Av. Sarmiento:
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.”
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.
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.
Today, if you immigrate to Argentina, you will undoubtedly spend some time in the Migraciones building, near the Retiro train station and the port. You’ll be going to the same place immigrants have passed through for more than 100 years.
In 1906, the Hotel de Inmigrantes (Immigrants Hotel) was built at this site with the aim of acting as a kind of full-service center for immigrants. Part of the old hotel building, between present-day Migraciones and the Navy’s school of sea sciences, now houses the Museum of Immigration (and a contemporary art center).
The museum’s on the third floor; definitely take the elevator.
The museum does have some artifacts, but it also dedicates a fair portion of its small space to contemporary art with an immigration theme. It is more of a tribute to immigration than a strictly educational space (although it does also house historical records for research). It begins with this work, We Are All the Same Under the Skin (I would credit the artist but apparently the museum handout I was reading like an hour ago has been misplaced):
The visitor also sees a timeline of immigration legislation and its historical context:
The visitor moves through the experience of immigration, with the examples of travel documents and illustrations of accommodations:
In addition to the multimedia artwork, visitors can listen to and watch interviews with more recent immigrants. As you move into the immigrant’s process of starting a life in Argentina, there is a life-size model of a part of a dormitory in the Immigrants Hotel. There’s a voice singing, and I recognized the lullaby.
Next, you see the some of the things immigrants used to create and sustain their communities:
Finally, the museum has an exhibition by the EDO art collective, imagining a solution to the dehumanization and rejection of migrants by having them be given the legal status of fine art, and then regaining their full status as human citizens of their new countries (the transport ship, La Ballena, is organized into elements of first-world museums, as befitting works of fine art). It sounds weird but I promise the concept appears more coherent and creative in person.
The museum is free, and the hours vary by season. While the signage is only in Spanish, there is an English-language booklet available at the desk on the bottom floor (by US reckoning, I mean the first floor; by Argentine I mean the PB). Finding it is a little bit of a challenge, as the road in front of the Migraciones complex is currently severely torn up by construction (probably for years to come) and the Immigrants Hotel is set back from the parking lot. There are some large banners to help direct visitors, and it shares an entry with the Navy’s school–the sailors on guard duty were very pleasant and helpful in directing us the right way. You can get to the general area by way of a train or subway to Retiro station and walk about a kilometer, or by taxi.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Ever wonder what the effects of tuberculosis look like on the inside? You are in luck, buddy.
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.
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.
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.