I always have high hopes when I visit a museum. But at the same time I realise that not every country has the resources and skills to establish and curate an outstanding collection. Museo del Poncho, set close to the shore of Lake Titicaca in the quaint Bolivian town of Copacabana, was truly a welcome surprise.
The Lonely Planet guidebook warned us of its erratic opening times, so we decided to arrive at 11am, despite the fact that it officially it opens at 10am. A mother with her baby in a pushchair were just opening as we arrived! Obviously, there was no rush.
Resigning myself to expect something rather dull, I was taken aback once entering the little inner courtyard. Freshly painted, clean and very welcoming. The reception had leaflets in a number of languages describing the museum and its exhibits.
This seems unusually organised for Bolivia, I thought. Perhaps this museum will surprise us after all. The lady indicated for us to go up a narrow set of stairs to the first floor where the prepared route around the compact little museum began.
The first section of the museum tells the story of how the various materials are gathered, spun, dyed and the different techniques for weaving the cloth to make the ponchos.
I found the samples of natural renewable materials used in the dying process of particular interest as environment issues are something I find myself more and more concerned about lately. Pictures and real life examples demonstrate this whole process in a simple yet effective way.
Each of the following areas of the museum focused on a specific region of Bolivia with wall mounted frames containing an explanation of the significance of the poncho in that region and the use and importance of the exhibits on display.
Walking around the Museo del Poncho was a very pleasant experience and we came away feeling we had learnt more about the local culture and the significance of the poncho to the indigenous people of Bolivia.
A small shop is attached to the museum with reasonably priced pieces for sale made by local artisans who continue the to use the skills and techniques of their ancestors.