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.

MUMIN Museo de Minerales [MUMIN Mineral Museum]

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.

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If a rock museum could have jazz hands

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.

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That thing is petrified wood, and the MUMIN has a huge chunk of it. Yaaass.
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Patagonia’s got some crazy fossil deposits.
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Up top you can see the impressions of a plant; at the bottom is a sauropod bone fossil.

“That’s cool,” you’re thinking. “BUT ARE THERE PRETTY ROCKS”

Of course!

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Fluorite!  One of my favorite minerals.
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Big ol’ piece of rhodochrosite, the national stone of Argentina.

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:

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whaaaaaaaaaaaaat

If you move the sand around, the volcano changes:

There’s another one!

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Islands in the stream, that is what we are

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:

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Although the geologist explained that it is just illustrative–if you dug beneath the Obelisco, you wouldn’t find a whole lot of the middle layers.  You would, however, cause no end of excited reactions on the part of the local government.

Wanna see more minerals?

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Good news.

I will never not find it fascinating that some minerals naturally grow in distinctive shapes.

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NEVER.

Finally, I will close this out with a geode.

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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.