Manuel Chávez Ballón is the site museum of Machu Picchu, yet most visitors to the ancient Inca citadel don’t know it even exists. Tucked away on the outskirts of Aguas Calientes, is probably one of the most overlooked and under-visited attractions in the area. We take a quick look at the museum,
what’s on display and whether it’s really worth visiting. located off the beaten track. Furthermore, it’s not even located at Machu Picchu!
Leaving Aguas Calientes (or Machu Picchu Pueblo), the museum is located just off the road that the shuttle buses use to go to Machu Picchu. Just a few meters after the bridge that crosses the Vilcabamba River and just before the road starts to incline, a small pathway to the right leads to the museum. There are neither buses nor taxis in Aguas Calinetes, so the only way to get there is by foot. The walk which follows the picturesque river takes about 30 minutes, and can sometimes be a little dusty (if not unpleasant) by the constantly passing shuttle buses for Machu Picchu.
Named after the late resident archaeologist at Machu Picchu (Manuel Chávez Ballón), the museum was re-inaugurated in October 1992 after a long period of closure. The main exhibits include artefacts recovered from Machu Picchu since it was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham (some as recent as 2004), plus some pre-Colombian items. The majority of artefacts on display are small pieces of ceramics, metals and stone forms, with many more items not on display but in storage for scientific evaluation. There are also a handful of photos, videos and other historic timeline displays on show.
Entrance to the museum also allows access to the tranquil and bird rich botanical gardens located to the rear of the site.
Interestingly, none of the thousands of artefacts that were recently returned to Peru from Yale University (taken by Hiram Bingham in 1911/12) are on display at the museum, but rather at la Casa Concha Museum in Cusco’s Historic Centre.
Of course everyone has different opinions on the value of a museum, but in summary, the Machu Picchu Museum falls short of most people’s expectations due to the lack of quality exhibits, its small size and remote location. La Casa Concha Museum (Santa Catalina Ancha) offers a greater insight into the history of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham and the people that lived there. However, if you have the time, the short walk, museum and gardens are a welcome break from Aguas Calientes.