Xela’s Natural History Museum

by Jed Herrmann

This month’s quiz: what do old soda bottles, mangy stuffed animals, and a 2,000 year-old pot have in common?

Following up on last month’s visit to Xela’s inaptly named Museo de la Marimba, this month takes us to the more appropriately named Natural History Museum, home of the above artifacts. Housed on the second floor of the Casa de Cultura, the museum actually contains some legitimate historical artifacts from Xela’s past.

The most interesting items are the Mayan artifacts. While the object labels would be more informative if they included information beyond who donated the item, there are some very beautiful and intricate statuettes. Also worth a look are the well-preserved pots, bowls, and cups, some dating back 2,000 years. And, of course, there are the random sharp stones resembling arrowheads that seem to be requisite for natural history museums the world over.

Dating from more recent times, the museum has an enjoyable collection of old beer labels, which showcase the historical logos of Cabro and other, now defunct, brands. For those numismatic enthusiasts in the audience, there is a collection of old Guatemalan currency; and judging from the selection of other random currencies, there is also a chance to make your very own donation to the museum’s world currency collection.

Living up to its name, the museum has a large, if loosely themed and organized, collection of natural items including an impressive selection of old leaves and plants. For you budding ornithologists out there, don’t miss the large collection of “preserved” birds (I use this term loosely as it doesn’t appear that these specimens received state-of-the-art preservation treatment).

Finally, leading the nominations for the area where the museum’s curators had the most fun, are the stuffed animals posed in the act of hunting- take particular note of the felines with birds hanging from their jaws. These stuffed animals allegedly reflect the fauna found in Xela and environs, though it seems unlikely that lions ever inhibited the area, even way back before the Spaniards inflicted their invasion related damage.

Unlike some other local museums, which shall remain nameless (except for where I mentioned it at the beginning), if you actually want to learn a bit about the topic of the museum’s title, then the Natural History Museum is a fine place to visit. It is also a surprisingly popular destination with over 3,500 visitors last month!

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