Located in Cusco’s historical centre, La Casa Concha Museum (the Shell House) is a new museum dedicated to the history of Machu Picchu. Paul Jones one of our Machu Picchu Vacations experts went along to explore what La Casa Concha Museum has to offer.
In my time, I have visited quite a few museums in Peru, and generally speaking I haven’t been that impressed. I think the premise of a museum is actually quite simple; it should be informative, educational, easy to navigate and moreover interesting to visit. Therefore, I have to say that I was more than surprised when I went along to see the new La Casa ConchaMuseum in Cusco’s colonial centre.
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The Struggle with Yale University
In 1912, the American explorer Hiram Bingham, accompanied by his team of volunteer archaeologists excavated the ancient Sanctuary of Machu Picchu deep in Peru’s Amazon Jungle. They recovered over 4,000 artefacts, which they carefully itemized and logged before shipping them back to Yale University in the USA. In recent years, the Peruvian government launched a high profile campaign to have all of these items returned to Peru, claiming that artefacts from Machu Picchu are in-fact the property of Peru, and not that of Yale University. After several years of negotiation, culminating in Peru’s President Alan Garcia writing a personal letter to the US President Barack Obama, an agreement was finally made to return the artefacts to Peru. La Casa Concha Museum, situated just a few blocks from Cusco’s main square is now the new showcase for these items, and the incredible history of Machu Picchu.
An Overview of the Museum
Covering two floors, and set in a colonial Spanish mansion, La Casa Concha Museum currently offers 10 individually themed exhibition rooms. The rear section and second courtyard of the museum is currently closed to public visitors, as the curators finalize the plans for several new exhibitions. Just this month the final delivery of artefacts sent from Yale University arrived in Cusco, and therefore sometime in 2013 visitors to the museum will be able to enjoy an even more comprehensive history of Machu Picchu.
Visitors to La Casa Concha Museum are treated to a good selection of educational and interesting exhibits, but there are some highlights of the museum which stand out above the rest. On the lower level just past the entrance, there is a large scaled model of Machu Picchu, which allows visitors the ability to get a much greater understanding of the layout of the sanctuary. It wasn’t obvious at first, but model is actually accompanied by an informative video narration from Professor Richard L. Burger of Yale University. Overhead lights illuminate the model section by section working in tandem with the video narration, and offering a more in-depth overview of what you are looking at. In the On Going Investigations Room, there is an interesting exhibit about how modern science techniques have revealed more about the people that lived at Machu Picchu. Analysis of bones recovered from the sanctuary give an informative insight into their diet, common health issues and diseases. There is also a rather disturbing (but interesting) exhibit of how the Inca’s used cranial deformation techniques on newly born babies to enhance social status. However, for me, the Discovery Cave and the Historical Photos exhibits are two of the best attractions. Visitors have the opportunity to see photos and original documentation from the 1912 excavation of Machu Picchu; which, for me is a fascinating look into the adventurous world of the explorer himself – Hiram Bingham.
How Much Time do you need to Visit?
A visit to La Casa Concha Museum will take approximately 2 hours. And although the exhibits are reasonably well explained and documented, a tour with a professional guide will certainly help you get more out of your visit. Currently La Casa Concha Museum has no audio or professional guides for hire (something I think they should work on!)
Opening times: Monday – Saturday, 9.00 am – 5.00pm. Sundays closed. Address: 320 Santa Catalina Ancha, Centro Historico Cusco Entrance: Foreign tourist S/. 20, foreign student with valid ISIC card S/.10.00
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