Twenty-six months after Chile’s devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake forced it to close for repairs, the Chilean natural history museum – the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural – will throw open its doors to the public, coinciding with the International Day of Museums.
Friday, May 18, will be the Chilean public’s first chance to see the most extensive upgrades in the institution’s 30-year history, much of which was focused on the museum’s star exhibition.
“The dioramas are the most memorable attractions for visitors to the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural,” said the director of the libraries and museums archives, Magdalena Krebs, while describing to La Tercera the exhibitions that have received the most lavish attention.
The dioramas that Krebs is referring to form part of the Chile Biogeográfico permanent exhibit on the first floor of the museum, which offers three-dimensional and scaled representations of the country’s many varied landscapes – from the stark lunar landscapes of the Atacama desert in the north, to the frigid southern climes of Chile’s Antarctic territories.
This exhibition is still in its tunnel form, still has 14 rooms and covers 5,425 square feet (504 m²). But aside from new additions and a more efficient use of space, the exhibition has had a complete rethink – down to its defining principles.
When it was designed in 1982, the idea of the 17 dioramas was to emphasize the distinct landscapes of Chile and their natural resources. Now, the remodeled exhibit is oriented toward celebrating Chile’s wilderness and its natural beauty.
Another addition are the newly installed LED lights that simulate the temperature of the places they are representing, replicating the passing of day into night and even projecting the aurora australis lights in the Antarctic diorama.
Other displays have also been added to the first floor of the museum, among them one on urban birds and another that reconstructs the site of a ritual Incan sacrifice in the Andean mountains behind Santiago, known as the Niño del Cerro El Plomo.
The second floor of the museum remains closed, but you can still see the famous 56-foot (17-m) blue whale skeleton and other large fossils and taxidermied animals on the first floor.