The Argentine Museo Histórico Nacional (National Museum of History) is committed to documenting and preserving artifacts from major events in the history of the country, from the arrival of the Europeans to Argentina’s independence from Spain to the formation of the first national governing body. As is common in Argentina, where the majority of the population descends directly from Spain and Italy, the pre-European history of this region is basically ignored.
The museum was founded in 1889 by Francisco Seeber, the then mayor of Buenos Aires, as the “Museo Histórico de la Capital” (“Historical Museum of the Capital”). Originally situated on the government property in Plaza Italia that is now occupied by the Botanical Gardens, the museum later moved to Parque Lezama in San Telmo, into the former home of the wealthy Lezama family. With Adolfo Carranza as museum director, the inauguration took place on February 15, 1891, showcasing objects, documents, and photographs of the May Revolution and the Argentine-Spanish war of independence. The collection was created out of donations from the families of major historical figures, rare indigenous artifacts preserved by the Jesuit missions in Argentina’s northeastern Mesopotamia region, and by acquisitions from the Museo Público (Public Museum).
The museum building is a beautiful, sprawling, 30-room Italian-style mansion, with a large terrace overlooking San Telmo’s sole green space. It is said that it was at this location that Pedro de Mendoza founded Buenos Aires in 1536. Inside, weapons, period furniture, and artwork depict the history of Argentina from the 16th century on, highlighting the big names (which ought to be recognized as the namesakes of the streets and parks in every city in Argentina), such as Simón Bolivar, Argentina’s hero General José de San Martín, Juan Manuel de Rosas, and Domingo Sarmiento. The Sala de la Conquista outlines Spain’s conquests in not just Argentina but nearby Peru as well, along with Columbus’ South American “discoveries”, and images from the British invasions of the early 1800s.
Of note to collectors will be the beautiful furniture collection, smartly displayed by period in exhibitions such as the reconstruction of San Martin’s bedroom. The museum’s paintings are of interest as well, with high-quality historical images and portraits by artists such as Cándido Lopez, whose series of the 1870′s Argentine-Paraguayain war is a key museum feature. The museum oftentimes has temporary painting exhibitions; check the website for an up-to-date schedule.
Museo Histórico Nacional is located in Parque Lezama in San Telmo, where the Feria de San Telmo, the famous antiques market, culminates on Sundays. Visitors can take a break from browsing the hundreds of antiques’ stalls in the quiet museum, where they can also receive more information about the pieces that they are looking at outside.
Name: Museo Hístorico Nacional
Address: Defensa 1600 (intersection Avenida Caseros), Buenos Aires
Telephone: (5411) 4307-1182
Spanish-language tours are offered on Sundays at 2p.