Casa del Alabado – An Extraordinary Museum in Quito

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La Casa del Alabado is a private museum in an old Spanish residence near the Plaza del San Francisco. And when I say old, I don’t mean a hundred years or so. I mean Colonial Old, built in 1671. The building itself is worthy of a visit even without its contents. Renovations have maintained the central structure which includes two interior courtyards, one in which tables and chairs await visitors and you could easily spend time just enjoying the ever changing clouds in the Andean sky. Exterior passage ways on the second floor allow visitors to flow in and out of exhibits, giving the mind time to pause in between rooms. And this is a place where a pause is necessary. Each room requires contemplation as your mind processes the beauty of each and every piece you see.

In the scheme of things, this building really isn’t very old… it’s the artifacts inside that are ancient. We saw pieces as old as 4500BC in amazing condition. And the collection is constantly surprising the visitor. Perhaps this is because the curators chose not to organize the collection by era or by time or even by culture but rather by finding commonalities within each civilization and displaying those pieces side by side.

My husband and I are both museophiles and have visited some of the most interesting collections in the world. What made this place so interesting for us is that each piece harked back to another we had seen – many in San Francisco at the Asian Art Museum. Yes, the connections back to Asia are astounding. We saw figures that reminded us of Shogun Warriors and of Yogis in ancient India. We saw faces that could have come from ancient China or Japan. The connections were almost overwhelming. Yet, at the same time, we saw pieces that were essentially Andean – tied into the ancient cosmology that we see repeated again and again in the artwork even today.

The pictures that I will share are just a small taste of what awaits you in this lovely space. And for those that worry that a museum will bore you, know that this museum is different. And it is small. We viewed the entire collection in two hours and we’re pretty slow and methodical. This museum is worth just a walk through, especially if you have any interest in the ancient sites of Ecuador. It will help ground your experience in a city where the Colonial structure overwhelms the ancient roots of the Andean people. Truly, this space tells the history of Ecuador before the times of Columbus in a unique way and comes highly recommended by this American traveller.

If you would prefer to see the photos in a slideshow, just click on any of them to start!

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