The Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art in Santiago, is among one of the best museums in Latin America. The Museum is well known globally, for those individuals interested in viewing ancient artifacts, from both Central and South America. The historical objects contained within the building, offer travelers a glimpse of a rich cultural and artistic diversity, of the Pre-Colombian people in the Americas. The Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art in Santiago, is the 12th stop in the ongoing travel series A World Far And Away.
The Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art is dedicated to the display and further study of artifacts from Latin America. Part of the mission of the museum, is to further research the art created by these earlier indigenous people, as a basis for understanding the wider culture. The concept remains a pioneering and unique initiative, in the Americas.
The museum known locally as the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, was founded by the Chilean architect Sergio Larrain Garcia-Moreno. Over the course of fifty years, Garcia-Moreno as an antiquities collector, was able to amass an impressive private collection of Pre-Colombian art.
Garcia-Moreno based his acquisitions of historical art, more on the thoughtful and spiritual message they conveyed, rather than simple accumulation. His belief was the art of these early people, contained a hidden message to all of humanity, of a cultural uniqueness that had to be uncovered and preserved.
During the 1970’s, Garcia-Moreno began seeking a permanent site, for the display and preservation of his near mythical assemblage of native art. He approached both governmental and university institutions with the intention of donating the collection. His earlier attempts led to failure.
The Chilean capital of Santiago, remained an ideal location, to place a historical art museum. With the support of the city government from then mayor Patricio Mekis, Garcia-Moreno was able to secure the impressive Palacio de la Real Aduana.
The Palacio de la Real Aduana itself, was built in a neoclassical style, between 1805 and 1807. It was constructed by use of the plans, provided by Italian architect Joaquin Toesca.
The building had been used by the Spanish colonial government as a Royal Customs House. It had already been identified as a National Monument, before it was decided to use the space to house the Garcia-Moreno collection.
The site of the Palacio de la Real Aduana, has played a prominent role in the history of Chile. In 1555, the land was granted to Juan de Cuevas, the very first mayor of Chile. He decided to build his residence there.
In 1635, the Jesuit Order installed the royal Colegio Convictorio de San Francisco Javier, after named the Convictorio Carolina de Nobles.
After independence in the 1820’s the Palacio de la Real Aduana housed the National Library. In 1845, it became the home for the Courts of Justice.
In 1968, a fire not only destroyed the archives, but the building itself. Through a series of restoration projects in the 1980’s, the Palacio de la Real Aduana was completely rebuilt and refurbished.
A major challenge for Garcia-Moreno, was how best to legally transfer title of his archaeological collection, to an institution that would maintain his standards and principles associated with art.
Julio Philippi, a prominent Chilean lawyer, subsequently created the legal framework, where the family of Garcia-Moreno would be donating the art pieces through a foundation, to the newly established museum.
The Foundation would provide the art and in exchange the city of Santiago, would not only provide the building, but the operating and management expenses.
Upon finalization of the agreement, later in December 1981, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art opened its doors, to the public at large. It would close in 2011, for further renovation, but re-opened in 2013.
The varying pieces of art in the collection, draw upon all the major Pre-Colombian culture areas of Meso-America, Intermemdiate/Isthmo-Colombian, Pan-Caribbean, Amazonian, and Andean. The later includes both the central and southern Andes.
The more than 3,000 pieces in the museum, represent over 100 different groups of people, over a span of 10,000 years.
The collection itself, is divided up into four main groupings. These are Meso-America, Intermedia, Andes Centrales,and Andes del Sur.
The Meso-America area contains items from the Aztec, the Mayan and Teotihuacan civilizations. This area includes the modern day nations of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and part of Nicaragua.
Intermedia includes the countries of Colombia and Ecuador. On display is pottery from the Valdivia, Capuli figures, and a number of gold objects from the Diquis and Veraguas.
Area Centrales, offers masks from the Moche, and some wonderful textile samples. A painted cloth from the Chavin, is dated from near 3,000 years ago.
Area Andes del Sur features more modern Argentinian and Chilean artifacts. There are ceramic urns from the Aquada people, items from the San Pedro culture, and even Incan quipu.
In addition, the museum contains some of the world’s oldest known mummies.
Garcia-Moreno with his dream realized, would pass away at the end of the 20th century, in 1999. He leaves behind an incredible collection of historical art that future generations will be able to view and enjoy.
Address: Bandera 361, corner Company.
Zip code: 8320298
Phone: (56) 2 29281500
Metro: Plaza de Armas, line 5
University of Chile, line 1
Adult rate for Chilean and foreign resident tickets is $1,000 ($1.49 USD) United States Dollar
Foreigners $6,000 ($8.92 USD)
Chilean students $500 ($0.74 USD)
Foreign Students $3,000 ($4.46 USD)
Children under 10 are admitted free
Indigenous people are admitted free
Children and young adults in the school system, admitted free
On the first Sunday of each month: There is no entrance fee.
Days and Hours of Operations
Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)
Wednesday 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)
Thursday: 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)
Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 (4:00 p.m.)
You will need to enter the museum, before 5:30 p.m.
The museum will be closed on the following days:
September 18 & 19
Visitors can download audio guides, with the texts of the permanent exhibition cases. They are ordered by cultural areas, according to the normal tour of the exhibition halls.
The audio guides are in mp3 format and are available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
The Museum Gift Shop/Store offers a wide range of further information on Pre-Colombian People in the Americas. There are a number of replicas of Pre-Colombian artifacts, along with indigenous crafts, books, bags, postcards etc.
Cafe & Restaurant
Pre-Colombian Coffee by Blue Jar
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 17:00 (5:00 p.m.)
Saturday and Sunday and public holidays 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: (56) 2 32013622
Is available throughout the city of Santiago.
- It will be far more crowded during the summer months, and during holiday periods, when more people are on vacation. So if possible plan your trip, during the off season.
- Visitors will need to spend at least two hours, to fully enjoy the experience.
- Non-flash photography is permitted everywhere, except for the Textile Room.