Saturday, 22 August 2015

A life in the day of a museum

Not sure if tio Hernan would approve, but my favourite installation at Peru's National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History  was, and always will be, this fella.


In 2001 congress declared the Peruvian Hairless Dog to be a national treasure - and all museums and archaeological sites that were able to care for them were required to have one on site. On one of our visits to the museum in Pueblo Libre we found Farkis hanging out at the canteen (where else?). 

I think Hernan and Tello would have at least been pleased to see this ancient breed becoming more recognised on its home territory. 

Back in the early part of the twentieth century Tello fought long and hard to find a permanent home for a growing collection of significant finds; to create a place where both scholars and the public could have access to well preserved and documented artefacts. It wasn’t easy, but in 1945 he succeeded in establishing Peru's first state museum - today's MNAAH.

The first major task was to deal with the hundreds of fardos collected on the Paracas peninsula. Young Hernan found hands on conservation work far from glamorous. It was hard, dirty labour.  But the team was on a mission. Hernan’s stories capture the spirit that sustained them through the early starts, the lack of resources, and the backbreaking and meticulous efforts to unwrap and catalogue the mummy bundles.

Here are three of tio Hernan’s Anecdotes where we get a light hearted glimpse into daily goings on at the museum.

A bit of banter between mates
In which a lecherous truck driver has occasion for regret

Even though he was the director it was quite common for Tello to dress in overalls when he was working in the museum. Sometimes he could be studying thousands of pottery fragments for hours and hours. He watched over them all meticulously, guarding each one as if they were precious gold pieces. He employed the same dedication to the museum’s greasy, foul smelling human skulls and bones.

One warm day he was wearing his overalls, standing in the street at the service entrance to the museum, sucking on an ice lolly, when a truck load of plaster of Paris arrived. “Who’s going to take delivery of this plaster order?” shouted the truck driver as he got out, slamming the door.