Sunday, my final day in Guadalajara, came in cool and overcast. Whatever I had contracted prior to leaving for Mexico flared up and I had started the cycle of antibiotics I had brought with me the night before. On my first day the museum, for a reason I never did ascertain, wasn't open. As I approached that morning I saw the doors were open and once inside discovered that admission on Sundays is free. I entered the venerable structure, built in 1701, and found myself in the courtyard that I had come to realize over the past week is an integral part of the architecture of the area.
The centerpiece of the museum's collection is a skeleton of a mammoth discovered nearby almost intact. Other prehistoric fossils line the walls. There is a rhino skull estimated to be 7 to 8 million years old, a the molar of a mammoth as large as a man's foot and the skull of a sabre tooth tiger with it's impressive fangs. Drawing on the walls above the bones depict how the animals appeared when alive. This was the only area of the museum where English translations, somewhat garbled, were presented next to the Spanish language ones on the description cards accompanying the artifacts on display. The closing paragraph of the last panel contains a statement that I think might be too controversial to be found in most American museums. It is a discussion regarding the different theories of the cause of the extinction of the creatures whose fossilized remains are housed there. The final paragraph addresses climate change and that man through his disregard for the earth and his rampant consumerism could cause the next great extinction. It is a message both chilling and thought provoking.
The next galleries focused on artifacts of the indigenous societies of Mexico. The items on display dated from 600 to 1500 a.d., so far as I could tell, the signs were all in Spanish. Case after case contained examples of jewelry, household items and terra cotta figures, all beautifully presented. There was a feeling of respect for not only the items themselves but also for the cultures that had created them. One case centered on music. Clay flutes were shown as well as sculptures depicting people involved in the joyful activity of making music and dancing.
The museum is somewhat of a labyrinth with multiple courtyards ringed by covered walkways on two levels. Some exhibits appeared to not be open, perhaps the reason the museum was completely closed when I first attempted to visit it. In an upstairs gallery I found artifacts from more recent eras. Portraits of important Mexican historical figures, I presume, again the signs were all in Spanish, filled the walls. There were several rather primitive paintings of battle scenes from Mexican wars. In an odd juxtaposition items of finery are also housed here, Elaborate opera glasses, an ivory fan and a delicate cup and saucer graced one case. There were also examples of military garb. Brass buttoned tailcoats and dress helmets decorated with horsetails and feathers. After all, we want to look our best when we go off to war. A mark of a true gentleman is an understanding of appropriate dress for the occasion.
I left the gallery and returned to the maze of walkways, staircases and courtyards.