Gold Museum

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Wed 29 Sep 2010 22:58
The Gold Museum




After our psycho minibus driver had thrown us around for a while we landed at the Gold Museum. It is considered one of Lima’s premier attractions. It houses the private collection of Miguel Mujica Gallo, who spent years amassing it, often by purchasing relics from grave robbers. Downstairs is the large collection, laid out in several rooms of gold figures, jewelry, masks, knives and artifacts from the Inca and colonial periods. It also contains mummies, headdresses and other ancient relics. I was saddened to see the items numbered with labels made on an old Dymo. We questioned the guide as to why the gold did not glisten and he answered "Due to the alloys in it " OH YEAH. Pull the other one. The stones, oars, pins and bits were interesting but we were suss about the skulls showing very neat surgery to repair a weapon hole, way too shiny.



Upstairs however, is a truly fascinating arms museum, which houses weapons and armour from many cultures, guns, knives and uniforms, although once again I was disappointed that the Bearskin was fake. Artifacts from Peru’s history, such as items owned by the Pizarro brothers and Simón Bolívar.


José Gabriel Chueca for The Art Newspaper. In 2001, a huge scandal broke out. It was proven that many of the pieces in the museum were fakes. Experts had been suspicious of many of the pieces for years. The Mujica Gallo family claimed that the fakes had been purchased by mistake and that the museum now only houses genuine pieces. However, there is still a cloud of skepticism that hangs over the exhibits. The most popular museum in Peru, the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) in Lima, is at the heart of an argument which is stirring archaeologists the world over, but is also stirring the Peruvian government. After countless tests and twenty years of argument, the pre-Columbian gold pieces in the collection have been declared fakes. The Gold Museum was established twenty years ago and prided itself on possessing one of the largest collections of pre-Columbian gold in the world. However, in July, after more than four months of tests carried out by specialists at the Catholic University of Peru, the museum was examined by the Institute for the Defense of Competition and of Intellectual Property, or Indecopi. In fact, since the 1980's Indecopi has been suspicious about the authenticity of the collections in the Gold Museum. The first reports suggested that 85% of the metal pieces on display were fakes. In August, the cultural commission of the government also looked into the scandal. Sanctions, which have not yet been imposed, could consist simply of a threat to prosecute, but there could also be direct legal action. The museum might, for example, be forced to publicise the fact that of "4,349 metal pieces analysed, 4,237 are false and more than 100 have aroused strong suspicions concerning their authenticity".


The museum's founder and, until 1993, owner of the largest number of gold objects in the country, Miguel Mufica Gallo, died a few days before the cultural commission took up the case. Described by the magazine Carelas as "a hunter of tigers and elephants, and the biggest collector of pre-Columbian gold and arms in Peru", Miguel Mujica Gallo, who was born in 1910, was ambassador in Austria and Spain and for a short time was minister of foreign affairs in the first government of Fernando Belaunde. From the outset, the Peruvian archaeological community suspected a number of pieces that formed the heart of his collection of not being genuine. In 1986, during an exhibition in a Canadian museum, specialists had expressed their reserves about the Gold Museum. During the 1990's, experts from the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (the organization which is responsible for giving export licenses to archaeological objects) confirmed that a number of pieces were fake. In fact, in 1999, an analysis of the objects on their way to an exhibition in Bohlingen in Germany concluded that many of the pieces had been made by combining ancient gold from various provenances. Others were modern, made by artisans in the countryside north of Lima.
In 1996 an argument raging within the Mujica Gallo family revealed the scandal to the press: letters concerning the division of the family possessions were published in the leading Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio. Having decided to exclude his seven children from his will, Miguel Mujica Gallo left the administration of the foundation to his daughter Victoria, who has been its director since January 2001. Victoria, in some embarrassment, has claimed that the assessors of the foundation took advantage of her father's illness to introduce some fake pieces into the collection. As a result of the scandal the future of the Gold Museum in Lima is extremely uncertain.

For our part it did not stop us visiting, there were few people other than us. In my opinion it just elevated the Gulbenkian Museum even higher.