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The museum has carried out research and organized exhibitions on biodiversity for more than 180 years, but never had a permanent location/FOTO: AITOR PEREIRA/ EFE

A former prison in Uruguay is now a museum

The Natural History Museum of Uruguay inaugurated its first permanent location at the former prison of Miguelete, which already houses the Espacio de Arte…

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Uruguay's Natural History Museum inaugurated yesterday its first permanent home at a former prison in central Montevideo

The museum has carried out research and organized exhibitions on biodiversity for more than 180 years, although during that time it has never had a permanent location, according to EFE.

The museum was open, and so was its library, but the scientific collections were only available on demand or for researchers. This is why the opening of a location of their own is of significance, says the director of the museum, Javier González. 

“From the year 2000, when the MNHN [the abbreviation for the name of the museum] had to move from its historical headquarters at the west wing of the Solís Theater, the Museum does not offer exhibitions open to the public due to the lack of space”, states its official website.

Not anymore. "Today we inaugurate the first part of the museum's collection, which was transferred to this location. We will then start moving the rest of the material,"  González said.

According to El País of Uruguay, two exhibition rooms are open for now. One is dedicated to the evolution of dinosaurs in the territory that is now Uruguay, 70 million years ago, and to the rest of the animals that inhabited this land 10,000 years ago. The other room exhibits a collection about wetlands, grasslands, deep sea and urban ecosystems.

The cultural heritage of the Natural History Museum consists of 400,000 specimens in all of their scientific collections.  

The prison of Miguelete opened in 1888, housed inmates until 1986 and stopped operating in 1998. The building was renovated and it currently houses the Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo. The two institution now share the building's facilities.

The minister of Education and Culture of Uruguay, María Julia Muñoz, attended the opening of the museum. She apologized on behalf of the Uruguayan government for "not having had the vision to find a large space where the museum could grow," although she said that she was glad that "mistakes have been mended."

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