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July 29, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014

The Museum of Fine Arts is going English

Anna Lowe will guide English-speaking visitors through the museum’s ground floor four times a week.
By Silvia Rottenberg
For The Herald

New director hones in on non-Spanish speakers with translations, guided tours

As of this week the National Museum of Fine Arts begins with English speaking tours. A few months after Marcella Cardillo took charge of the museum, English leaflets were already out there, alongside information in Portuguese.

“We want our doors to be open to everyone, and now, more than ever before, we especially welcome non-Spanish speaking visitors,” Cardillo told the Herald.

The bright-painted galleries, though partly closed due to a long-awaited renovation, give an impressive view of the history of Argentine and European art, with highlights from 19th century Europe.

The National Museum of Fine Arts is renowned for having the largest collection of European art in Latin America, and houses the biggest Argentine collection in the country.

In her first ever interview in English, the director of the museum explains that, for her, communication will be one of the most important elements of her directorship. It is her mission to make the museum more public friendly: “The first thing we did, since I started here, was to renew and modernize the website. We then made flyers in both Portuguese and English. And our latest implementation is providing digital QR information, which can be scanned via mobile phones or tablets,” Cardillo told the Herald.

“We felt there was a threshold for people going to museums and we want to show that the doors of our museum, with the largest patrimony in the country, open to everyone; schoolchildren, young people, the elderly and people from abroad. The collection is public and therefore belongs to everyone,” Cardillo said.

“We sensed there was a lack of information: especially for visitors coming from abroad. If you walk around the galleries, there are people from Brazil, from the United States, from all over the world, and there was no information for them,” she added.

As of this week, the non-Spanish-speaking visitor can go to the museum and take a tour, free of charge. Four times a week, Anna Lowe guides visitors with great enthusiasm through the ground floor of the museum, showing the highlights, which serve as a perfect introduction to the collection.

“I found it hard to believe that there was almost no English material. I had been researching for quite some time, preparing for the tour, and the lack of resources in English made it quite a challenge,” Cardillo said about her special focus on non-Spanish speakers.

She confirmed that the plans and tours are just the beginning of the museum’s path to internationalization. “We are currently working on translating part of the website, adding summaries in English and Portuguese to the labels, and offering the technical information that we have on the works of art in our database in other languages. This information provides technical data on the material of the art works as well as analysis made by experts. This will make it possible for people abroad to go back and research certain works of art in our collection. It is, of course, a work in progress. Of the 11.500 works in the database, we now have a mere 100 translated into English.”

The collection consists of an even larger amount of works than currently in the database, some of which have never left storage. “It is our aim this year to show our collection. Especially with the exhibits Americanismo, which will open in May, and Erotic Art scheduled in October, we want to show works of our collection that have never been exhibited before,” Cardillo said.

“For each of these exhibits we work with great teams. I am not a curator, nor an art historian. I am a lawyer and have been placed in this position by the Secretary of Culture, which I find to be an honour. I lead this museum as a public administrator and consider it my public responsibility. Public Administration is my area of expertise and I would not want to position myself as an art specialist, which I am not. I make sure, though, that I’m surrounded with the best, and the staff of this museum is highly qualified. I feel I have a great support. What are my aims, aside from improving communication and internationalization? The renovation. I want the entire museum to be open this year,” Cardillo told the Herald.

English-speaking tours are held on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 12.30pm and Saturday at 2.00pm. The National Museum of Fine Arts is located on 1473 Avenida Del Libertador.

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