Unique museum in southern Chile is a snapshot of the past

Along the banks of Lago Llanquihue in Puerto Varas, This is Chile talked with museum owner Pablo Fierro about his unique project.

The scenic town of Puerto Varas is one of several picturesque locations along the banks of the massive Lago Llanquihue in southern Chile. On clear days the silhouette of Volcán Osorno, a towering snow-capped volcano, spikes the horizon. For all of its natural beauty, yet another draw pulls visitors from all over the world: the curious and one-of-a-kind Museo Pablo Fierro.

Stepping into Museo Pablo Fierro, which is located along the rim of the lake just a few minutes outside of town, is like entering a jumbled collective memory or a fantastical time capsule. Jagged staircases decorated with objects lead to nowhere, and typewriters, rotary phones, foggy glass bottles, rustic paintings, and faded photographs coat and cover every surface.

The story of this strange museum goes hand in hand with that of its owner Pablo Fierro. Fierro is an artist from the area who has painted and drawn pictures of historic buildings in the region for 25 years. Along with a hodgepodge of found objects, Fierro’s paintings hang throughout the museum.

“The objects come from family, friends, neighbors, from demolitions, abandoned houses, in the trash,” Fierro told This is Chile. “The things people don’t see, I bring here.”

Contrary to what one might imagine, nothing, not even Fierro’s paintings are for sale.

“Here these things have come to rest, to be looked at again,” Fierro waxed wistfully. “Once they were garbage and here they are reborn.”

Fierro opened his museum twelve years earlier in Puerto Montt. In 2005 he moved the museum to its current location in Puerto Varas and began the slow but steady task of transforming the occupied building into what visitors encounter today.

“I still have a tower to build,” Fierro added.

Fierro described his museum as an inspiration to visitors who drop in.

“Follow your dreams, that’s what this is about. Without realizing it, ‘want’ was mixed with ‘can,’ the art of dreaming and making that reality,” Fierro said.  “[The museum] recalls the past, childhood. The world moves so fast, so this place is like a break from life.”

The Museo Pablo Fierro is located on Vicente Pérez Rosales, the main boulevard that runs around the Lago Llanquihue. From downtown Puerto Varas, the museum is about a ten-minute walk to the right (when staring at the lake). It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information visit Fierro’s website.

By Gwynne Hogan