If gold is eternal, then the building that houses it should be too. This at least, is what the Banco de La República believed ten years ago when it set out on an ambitious plan to totally renovate the Museo del Oro, The Gold Museum.
While for some gold is a commodity, for others it is sacred. The attraction to this most precious of metals is universal. During the last four decades, The Gold Museum has attracted millions of visitors and is considered one of the country’s most important cultural assets. Few visitors step foot in Bogotá without wandering the halls of The Gold Museum and standing in awe of its collection.
When it first opened its doors in 1968, The Gold Museum was considered a fitting home for over 50,000 pre-Hispanic gold artifacts. It was located at the very heart of a growing city and frequented on a daily basis by about a thousand local and foreign visitors.
But the passing of time took its toll on the edifice. The imposing grey marble building, which was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and an Icon of Modern Colombian Architecture in 1970, lost its luster, and the gold that shone within shone somewhat less brightly. More than replacing lights, the gold and the museum required a complete transformation beyond the limitations of physical space into the realms of storytelling.
To tell the story of gold in terms of conquest is to box it within history. While it brought the ‘Old’ World to the ‘New’, and was the coveted by pirates and conquistadores, it is also a metal upon which most of the world’s economic system is based, a mineral of historical nightmares and modern dreams.
The transformation of the predominately socio-anthropological gold story, to a revised, interactive one is as much a feature of the museum as are the 4,000 square meters allocated for exhibition space. The museum incorporates a modern auditorium, gift shop, restaurant and café, and is rightfully ranked among the world’s great museums.
The new galleries set out to achieve a close relationship between the visitor and the objects. Furniture and fittings go almost unnoticed, placing the attention back on the objects themselves, their colors, textures and designs. By putting gold back in the spotlight, LED technology is used to faithfully recognize the color of the priceless objects. The ‘Offering Room’ provides a sound and light spectacle for visitors.
As part of the Museum’s dedication to education, a large Learning Room takes up the fourth floor and is called the Exploratorium. This enables the curious to take a deeper look into specific subjects and make the scientific storytelling more accessible for students and researchers.
The Gold Museum covers a total of six floors, including two basements, in which visitors are able to wander at leisure among the collection. It should be noted that The Gold Museum is no longer inaccessible to those with physical limitations. Access and mobility is assured with ramps and many of the prized objects of the museum have been reproduced in a tactile way for those who are visually impaired.
Gold is a mineral that no knows no boundaries. It’s mined around the world, from the northern territories of Canada to the deep rainforests of Indonesia and Colombia. As a result, the gold story is universal and The Gold Museum tells it that way. Audio devices make it easy for the visitor to take tours in English and French.
“The story of gold is the story of metallurgy,” claims Roberto Lleras, Technical Director of The Gold Museum. “We live in metal structures, pay with metal coins, drive in metal vehicles,” he says describing the advances made in the museum’s scientific storyline. “It’s a story of everyday life.”
From finite particles to infinite interpretations, the gold on display at The Gold Museum is a celebration of Colombia’s rich pre-Hispanic heritage. In addition to its already unique collection, 1,479 objects were incorporated several years ago and reveal how indigenous communities celebrated this metal in ceremonial offerings.
The significance of the “sacred” in gold is the third floor of museum. The collection houses a magnificent array of miniature figurines, from jaguars, snakes and other animals, which were used in religious ceremonies and death rituals. Here, visitors can admire the golden amphora – poporo quimbaya – and one of this country’s most recognised masterpieces – the golden raft of the Muisca.
To conserve the collection and enhance the visual journey, The Gold Museum’s showcases are fitted hermetically. An air pressure system prevents pollution from entering and precise humidity and temperature control systems guarantee the objects will be preserved for the future.
If the power of gold lies in its capacity to attract, then The Gold Museum with its modern infrastructure excels. El Dorado is no longer a legend, it lives on in a museum which gives new meaning to the word gold.
Carrera 6 No.15-88
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Tuesday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Seniors and children enter free.