Guatemala City, the Museums

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TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2001. After a good breakfast, we set out to visit the extensive Archaeology Museum near the airport. The museum was fabulous, filled with treasures from the various Guatemalan sites – Kaminaljuyu, Rio Azul, Piedras Negras, Tikal and the many, many others. The displays were well done, with useful explanations, though typcially the pieces were attributed to an area rather than a specific site. We were permitted to see a wonderful panel from Piedras Negras that had just been brought in. A magnificent carved throne from Piedras Negras was covered with protective plastic but looked quite similar to one of my favorite pieces from the San Ildefonso, Mexico City exhibit. The original carved wooden lintel from Temple IV at Tikal was there, as was the Marcador from Group XVI. In the jade room, they displayed Ah Cacao’s magnificent jade mask with other wonders. The museum bookstore did very well with our visit.

Next we went to the small, but exquisite Popol Vuh Museum on the campus of the Francisco Marroquin University. When I had attended the digital imaging workshop in Florida, put on by Nicholas Hellmuth, the other fellow in the class was a director of the Popol Vuh Museum. A retired architect, Max Holzheu, was curious about how the digital imaging process worked. The architecture for the museum and the adjacent Ixchel Textile Museum was stunning, and I wondered if my old classmate had had anything to do with it. The first room that we entered in the museum had a fine example of Nicholas Hellmuth's handiwork – a huge rollout photograph of a magnificent polichrome vase. Though a relatively small collection, the exhibit at the Popol Vuh Museum includes some of the best of the best.

Across the courtyard, we entered the Ixchel Textile Museum. We watched an instructive video, then toured the exhibits of the magnificent textiles that have been developed, primarily in Highland Guatemala. As we were leaving and preparing to sign the guestbook, I saw that the last name in the book was “Ed McMahon, Conservationist”. Ed is a fellow I arranged to have speak in Boone and later helped recruit for a conference in near-by Hickory. He gives great lectures on how to preserve community character and does a great job of bringing urban planning concepts to a very concrete, grassroots level (maybe ‘concrete’ is not the best word!). I dashed out to see if I could find him, but he had already gone. Small, small world.

Once again, the museum shop was very happy to have us visit. I bought some beautiful “huipiles”, the intricately woven textiles of the Highland Guatemala women. I was very pleased. Greg was highly amused at how much pleasure I took from my little shopping excursions.

That night we dressed up for our “despedida” (farewell) dinner. Everyone looked especially nice (and remarkably civilized, despite our many great adventures). Over a red dress, I wore one of the multi-colored huipiles that I had bought that afternoon. We went to a nice steak house and had an excellent meal. The sea bass ceviche was quite good.

When the bus returned us to our hotel, we said sad good-byes to Bette and Sunny, who were leaving on an early flight the next morning. The rest of us gathered in Bea and my room, where we drank rum and listened to scary Chol ghost stories, told in a darkened room by Kathryn and Nick. Too soon we broke up the party. We hugged Warren and Dayna good-bye. They were headed to the Highlands early the next day. We hope to see them again in Austin. It had been a very satisfactory finale to a marvelous trip.