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The Network of Museums and Cultural Centres of the Los Ríos Region, Chile

A case study in the context of the 1972 Round Table of Santiago
By Karin Weil González and Simón Urbina Araya, Department of Museology, Austral University of Chile

The Network of Museums and Cultural Centres of the Los Ríos Region, Chile

Members of the Network of Museums and Cultural Centres of the Los Ríos Region at the inauguration of the 12th Chilean Museum Days in Valdivia, 2016 ©Héctor Andrade

The history of museums in Latin America is relatively recent compared to that of countries in Europe and Oceania. Museums began to emerge after independence movements from Spain, arising from new political and cultural situations and concerns. Along with schools, libraries and theatres, the first museums to appear in Latin America were benchmarks of these nascent American republics. These institutions rushed to search for symbols and became a means of creating, unifying and protecting new national identities (Gant 2007).

 

The Museum of Natural History in Santiago was the first museum founded in Chile. It was the result of an emerging national awareness of the need for scientific understanding about nature, the land, and its native inhabitants. It was founded in 1830, and the first director was renowned French naturalist Claudio Gay. The Museum of Fine Arts was established 50 years later. As a result of the newfound importance of the mining industry in northern Chile, the Mineralogical Museum was founded in 1887 in the city of La Serena. At the end of the 19th century, Salesian missionaries established their own museum in the far south of the country, in the city of Punta Arenas just north of the Strait of Magellan, with the aim of storing collections related to the natural and cultural history of the region’s native inhabitants.

 

After this period of initial interest, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that governments, scientific associations, universities and private organisations developed an interest in creating new museum spaces and galleries for collections, many of which were specialised in archaeological collections.

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