“ The Museum of Bogota / Location: Carrera 7 con Calle 26, Planetario Distrital Bogotá, Colombia / Tel: +51 1 2814150 „
The Museo de Bogota is just across from where I work, and a few minutes from where I live, but since I'd not gone in yet despite walking past it 6 or more times a day, I realised I had to make a concerted effort to visit. Surprisingly it wasn't listed in my guide book, but I found it had a website, albeit a rather uninformative one. Open all week except Mondays, this museum is permanently free, not just on a Sunday like many, which might explain why it wasn't massively crowded when I went (on a Sunday) - you can visit whenever you like without thinking you should save the pennies and wait for the open house. It's a little confusing as at the entrance there is what looks like a ticket office, but the guard just waved me through, not even looking up from his mobile as he did so.
I didn't know much about the museum, but assumed from the name it might be a general sort of city museum, perhaps about the history of Bogota.
I was wrong.
The museum makes a good if intriguing first impression. The front is very much like a facade on a film set, as it looks like one thing but, step through into the courtyard, and you find something else entirely. In contrast with the Colonial entrance, the inside is much more modern, all monochrome with sleek lines, glass stairs and floor to ceiling windows. There are several courtyards and a roof terrace which was bathed in sunshine though sadly lacking in furniture, thus discouraging you from visiting. All fine and nice, but you don't go to a museum for the architecture or interior design. You go for the exhibits.
The museum is not small: it spans several airy rooms on two floors (with a lift - a first for a Colombian museum). But despite them having lots of space, they have chosen to use it in a way which is, well, not what I would have done with it. There is only one exhibit in the museum, and it concerns HJCK.
They don't tell you what this is.
You're supposed to know.
I didn't, but through a bit of deduction I realised it must be a radio station or TV channel (in fact it's the former). And though HJCK is, apparently, something of a national institution and has been since it was founded in 1960, it's still an odd thing to have in a museum with this name. Call it the Radio Museum, or the HJCK archives, and people might have more of an inkling of what they're letting themselves in for.
Still, I had made the effort to go, so I decided to stick around and see if I could learn something. The walls are covered with displays (there's little in the middle of the rooms, just clustered round the sides) and it was at an excellent height (code for not too high for shorties like me), though there was an awful lot of writing. The font was small and the text only in Spanish, so if you've forgotten your glasses or your multilingual brain, you might have to be content with just looking at the pictures. There are lots of these, mostly black and white, and they looked stylish and cool but I didn't have a clue who the people in them were. Some, it turns out, were the radio presenters. Now TV stars I could understand, but I'm sure even people who listen to this station might not know what their favourite DJs look like - it's their voices they're recognisable by after all - so a few labels wouldn't have gone amiss.
The museum tracks the station's history from 1960 to 2010. It lists every famous guest, big event, award win big or small, all in chronological order, and it's interesting without actually being of interest if you see what I mean. The thing is, I'm not sure it was just my status as an Extranjera that left me failing to understand quite why there was a whole museum dedicated to this. I went through at quite a rapid pace but even so there were other (locals) who arrived after me and left before I was done. I must not have been the only person confused by it all. I think you'd really, REALLY have to like the station to want to make a special trip here, and such a definition I'm sure does not account for all Colombians just because it's a station from their country. It's just like at home: I'd go to a Radio 1 exhibition out of personal interest, but unless it includes The Archers, my mother's not going to show up even though she's just as British as I am.
The museum is not well designed acoustically. Because it's so open plan sound really carries, both across the building and between floors. Several rooms had recordings playing, but they were competing with each other for your attention and also able to be heard in rooms far from where they were coming, which was a bit confusing. Also confusing? The video playing in the far room because (a) this is a radio exhibition, not a TV one and (b) there was no explanation of what it was.
Ultimately I could not recommend this museum unless it's raining hard as you're in the neighbourhood and you need a port in a storm, or you've been to everything else there is to see in town. Even though it's free, it is not worthy of a visit in my mind, and would not be of interest to most international tourists. I think guided tours could have made this a much more interesting place to visit, but these are unfortunately not offered. It's just a little bit too niche for my liking - and I maintain that it is a seriously odd thing to base a museum around.
There is no shop, nor a cafe, but there are nice free toilets, so I suppose that could be one reason to visit...
Please note the museum has moved, and the correct address is now: Carerra 4, 10-18
http://www.museodebogota.gov.co/ (though lots of the links don't work)