Amazing Reminders of the Past at Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum

The Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum in Quito, Ecuador, was named in honor of its chief benefactor who donated his extensive and valuable collection of art and documents to the Municipality of Ecuador on 3 April 1957. The museum bearing the name of Alberto Mena Caamaño was inaugurated on 9 November 1959.

The Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum is situated in a complex known as El Centro Cultural Metropolitano that, at different times since it was constructed in the 1600s, has served as a prison, headquarters to the Spanish royal troops and a university, but now contains an extensive public library, performance areas and the museum.

The exhibits at the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum afford visitors a wonderful opportunity to gain insight into the art and culture of the people of Quito. Much of the art donated by Alberto Mena Caamaño represents colonial art from the 16th and 17th centuries, featuring renowned artists such as Miguel de Santiago and Joaquín Pinto. The museum also features a number of contemporary artworks, some of which have won the prestigious Mariano Aguilera Award for sculpture and painting.

Guided tours are given of the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum as well as the 400 year old building, including old Jesuit residences and the basement area, which was once used to confine prisoners. The conflict of 2 August 1810 between the Spanish royal troops and patriots fighting for independence, resulting in the death of many of the patriots, is displayed in life-size wax figures at the museum.

The museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition, “From Quito to Ecuador”, portrays the history of Quito from 1700 through to 1830 when the new Republic of Ecuador gained independence from Gran Colombia. It also covers the life and achievements of Pedro Vicente Maldonado (1704-1748), the Ecuadorian scientist who collaborated with the French Geodesic Mission in their quest to measure the roundness of the Earth, as well as the length of a degree of longitude at the Equator – a huge undertaking considering they were using 18th century technology.

Visitors to Ecuador will have a multitude of things to do and see in the fascinating city of Quito. A visit to the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum will be time well spent.