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Mexico: Mummies Museum

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Mummies Museum | Mexico | Americas

[Visited: August 2012]

The bus from Mexico City had left me some 6km outside of the colonial town of Guanajuato, and I took a local bus from there. Passing several villages on the way, we reached the outskirts of Guanajuato, and I left the full bus when we had reached the top of a ridge. Once outside, it turned out that the museum I wanted to visit first was close; I walked up a street and found myself on a small square full of souvenir stalls and snack joints. Inside the building, there was quite a line of people waiting to buy a ticket, and signs everywhere warning the visitor that, among other things, taking pictures was not allowed. I even doubted whether I should go at all, when curiosity to see the mummies took over; I climbed a small flight of stairs into the dark interior of the museum, after one of the guides of the museum invited a group to go in.

Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummies lined up in the museum

Right in the first hall, a lone mummy stands in a glass display: he is known as Remigio Leroy of the French Doctor, and was the very first mummy to be put on display in the mid-1800s. Still wearing clothes and with facial hairs coming out of his skull which has a surprised look showing his teeth, the mummy in some parts has the appearance of a skeleton. I would notice this more often in the mummies in the museum: where at some parts, you can clearly see the skin that has turned into some kind of sturdy leather keeping the mummy together, in others, the disintegration process of the dead has partly turned them into skeletons. This, of course, makes their looks a little gruesome and spooky, and indeed, some people are terrified seeing these mummies in their glass resting place, staring at all those visitors. Some of the mummies are touching, like the mother and fetus (claimed to be the smallest mummy in the world), or the one who was buried alive, or drowned. Still, somehow, the bodies look very natural, and in some cases even artsy; they did not scare me at all, but rather, aroused a curiosity about our ephemeral reality as human beings.

Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Folded hands of one of the mummies in the museum

Surrounded by quite a large group of people, I noticed that many were taking pictures and the guide did not say anything at all about it, so I felt free to shoot myself. I also walked a little ahead, so I could be alone with the mummies; whenever the group caught up with me, I walked back, so I could again see the mummified bodies without being surrounded by others. Besides the rooms where mummies are standing, there are also corridors where mummies lie in glass caskets, and even just mummified heads are on display. The story of the museum is curious: in the first half of the 1800s, a cholera outbreak killed many in Guanajuato, and people were buried in a cemetery right behind the museum. In case relatives did not pay a tax to keep the bodies in the cemetery after a period of 5 years, the bodies were disinterred; it then turned out that some of them had mummified instead of dissolved, and it was decided to store the mummified bodies. When this started to attract visitors, it was eventually decided to turn the storage into a museum.

Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummified child in the museum
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummy which is turning into a skeleton
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Skull covered by hair of a mummy on display
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): French doctor still wearing a dress in the museum
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Open-mouthed skull of a mummy in the museum
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): So-called China Girl in the museum, one of the immigrants of Guanajuato
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Smallest mummy in the world
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Decay visible on this skull in the museum of mummies
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummy still wearing clothes in the museum
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): One of the loose mummified heads
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummies displayed in one of the corridors of the museum
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Mummified hands seen in close-up
Picture of Mummies Museum (Mexico): Disintegrating mummy lying in the museum

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