Cuenca’s museums are in trouble: Some have closed while others are on life-support

Aug 31, 2019 | 3 comments

The Manuel Agustín Landívar Site Museum on Calle Larga closed its doors last year.

The Manuel Agustín Landívar Site Museum on Calle Larga was established in1972 and charged with the care and exhibition of Cañari, Inca, and Spanish artifacts and ruins as well as bone and pottery fragments left by earlier settlers in the Cuenca area. For many years, the Landívar collection was a primary resource for archaeological study and education for both for academics and tourists. The museum also hosted a variety of children’s programs designed to encourage cultural awareness.

A courtyard in the Museo Monasterio de las Conceptas.

Last year, the Landívar Museum closed its door due to lack of funding.

According to the provincial director of the Azuay Casa de Culutra, Martín Sánchez, “We looked everywhere for the means to cover the deficit. We also sought to find other institutions with the means to absorb the collection and support the museum re-opening to the public but, in both regards, we were unsuccessful.”

The Guillermo Aguilar Maldonado Museum of Medicine History on Av. Doce de Abril is on life support. Established in 1982, the museum’s survival is dependent on the generosity of a handful of private contributors but its future is bleak without new funding sources. The museum lacks a professional archivist, a requirement for maintaining international standards. As a result, the collection is under stress and irreplaceable artifacts are in danger of deteriorating.

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An exhibit room in the Guillermo Aguilar Maldonado Museum of Medicine History.

Also in severe financial stress is the Museo Monasterio de las Conceptas on Calle Hermano Miguel. The condition of the religious museum’s permanent exhibition was recently declared an emergency by director Mónica Muñoz who plans a fund-raising campaign to keep the facility open. “Despite having the active support of citizens who want the museum to remain a part of the city’s heritage, it has not been possible to cover all the expenses without government support,” she says. Located in a late-16th century monastery that occupies an entire city block, Muñoz has appealed repeatedly for government funding in recent years and has kept museum door open only as a the result of private donations.

Even Cuenca’s Pumapungo Museum and Cultural Complex, operated by the national government, is underfunded. Located on one of the most important archaeological sites in Ecuador, the facility does not have an archaeologist on staff and has a years-long backlog of projects waiting for financial resources.

The city’s museum directors, who say their collections are deteriorating without more support, insist that a new model of public/private support is needed to keep their doors open. “At this point, we maintain our collections and facilities the best we can but don’t know how much longer we can hold out,” says Muñoz.

New Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios is hearing about the plight of museums. René Cardoso, director of the museum unit of the Municipality of Cuenca, said that a new budget will be analyzed by the administration to support the museums. He says he understands the condition of the museums and their financial need and is working to find a solution.

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