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During a recent trip to Chile, we were privileged to visit the Museo Chileno de Arte PreColombino in Santiago. As the name suggests, the Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts showcasing the rich and varied cultural history of this region before the arrival of Europeans.

The colonial era building housing the museum is itself impressive, having recently been re-designed (by one of our favourite Chilean architects, Smiljan Radic). We began in the stunning lower level, which houses the beautifully displayed “Chile Antes de Chile”, a permanent exhibition of artifacts specifically from the various regions that now form modern Chile.

But the highlight for us was of course the Sala Textil (or Textile Room). The museum has a significant collection, partly due to the arid conditions of much of the Andean region, which means textile fragments dating back several thousand years have been well preserved. While the room itself is not large, the textiles were breathtaking in their beauty and richness, and in the variety of weaving and embroidery techniques. The extensive use of natural dyes were also evident.

In pre-Colombian South America, weaving and textile making was an important and highly sophisticated technology. Some of the textiles were of a practical nature, for example woven baskets or nets using simple knotting or interlacing techniques. Other textiles were reserved for ceremony, ritual, religious or other cultural expression. Most importantly, textiles were a means to preserve ancient wisdom and knowledge.

Due to the fragile nature of the pieces on display, photography was understandably not allowed in this room. However, the museum website has extensive notes and images of the collection.

Highly recommended for all textile lovers.

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