The Museo Nacional del las Culturas de Oaxaca is the city’s finest museum. Housed in the former monastery of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the museum is dedicated to the preservation of Oaxaca's cultural and historical heritage, exhibiting many of the state's most important objects of art, artifact, and antiquity, spanning the pre-Columbian to the modern eras.
Among the museum’s extensive collection of exhibits are the priceless Mixtec artifacts of gold and jewelry excavated from Tomb 7 of Monte Albán, considered one of the most important archeological discoveries in México. Another important collection is the Francisco Burgoa Library, an archive of 23,000 historical books and documents dating back to 1484. All the descriptions of the exhibits are in Spanish, although an excellent audio guide in English can be rented for Mex$50 (Spanish Mex$40).
Even if the museum’s exhibits hold no interest for you, the architectural and artistic beauty of the early 17th-century ex-monastery housing them is reason enough to visit. Just north of the main entrance to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the ex-monastery’s long, tunnel-like main portal opens to a spacious cloister, two stories high, ringed with arcades fronting walks covered with thick, sturdy rib vault ceilings, a robust fountain at its center. On the north side of the cloister, a wide double staircase leads up a vestibule, its surfaces covered in painted reliefs and gilded stucco ornamentation, while upstairs, next to the entrance to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo’s choir loft, the dome and walls of the old friars chapel are covered in painted reliefs and gilded stucco ornamentation as well.
- Northeast corner of Alcalá & Gurrión, north of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Tue - Sun 10 am - 6:15 pm; Mex$51, free for children, students, seniors; Sundays and holidays free for everyone; phone 951-516-2991, 951-516-3721.
Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca • Library, Museum • (N)
Founded in 1988 by the renowned Oaxacan graphic artist Francisco Toledo, the institute exhibits the work of talented artists from throughout the state and country, as well as housing one of the most extensive libraries of art books in México.
- Alcalá 507, north of Allende; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Gallery open Wed - Mon 9 am - 8 pm, closed Tue; library open Mon - Sat 9 am - 8 pm, closed Sun; free; phone 951-516-6980, 951-516-2045; www.biblioiago.blogspot.com.
Centro Fotográfico Álvarez Bravo • Museum, Library • (M)
The renowned Oaxacan graphic artist Francisco Toledo founded the center to promote the art of photography and to support aspiring photographers in the state, dedicating it to the acclaimed Méxican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. To these ends, the center, installed in yet another beautifully restored colonial mansion, exhibits the work of prominent and emerging photographers, supports an extensive collection of books on photography, and conducts seminars in photography.
- Bravo 116, corner of Garcia Vigil; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Wed - Mon 9:30 am - 8 pm, closed Tue; free; phone 951-516-9800; cfmab.blogspot.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Casa de la Ciudad • Museum, Library • (T)
Installed in a beautifully restored 18th-century colonial mansion, the museum is dedicated to the research, preservation, and promotion of the architectural heritage of the state of Oaxaca. To these ends, it displays permanent and rotating exhibits, supports independent research, hosts conferences, and houses an extensive library of books and papers on the subject, including the forty thousand volume personal collection of the Oaxacan writer and politician Andrés Henestrosa. Be sure to view the aerial photos contrasting the Centro Histórico of today with fifty years ago.
- Porfirio Díaz 115, corner of Morelos; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Daily 9 am - 8 pm; free; phone 951-516-9647, 951-516-9648; library 951-516-9750, 951-516-9715.
- Southeast corner of Constitución and Reforma behind the Iglesia de Santo Domingo; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; English: 2 hr guided tour Tue, Thu, Sat 11 am for Mex$100; Spanish: 1 hr guided tour Mon - Sat 10 am, 12 pm, 5 pm for Mex$50; phone 951-516-5325, 951-516-7915; library 951-516-9017; email@example.com.
Biblioteca Pública Central • Library • (H)
A trip to the public library is probably not what even the most dedicated bibliophiles have in mind when they travel. Oaxaca's main public library, however, is housed in a beautifully restored late 18th century French-style building, making a visit well worth it for anyone who enjoys Mexico's colonial architecture.
- Alcalá 202, corner Morelos; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Mon - Fri 9 am - 8:30 pm, Sat 9 am - 2 pm; phone 951-516-4128; biblioteca-publica-de-oaxaca.blogspot.com; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Oaxaca Lending Library • Library • (J)
Privately run library with thousands of books in English and Spanish. Short-term memberships are available. Free intercambio every Saturday from 10 am - 12 noon, just show up at 10 am to participate.
- Pino Suarez 519, half-block north Cosijoeza; North of Independencia, Centro Histórico; Mon - Fri 10 am - 2 pm & 4 - 7 pm, Sat 10 pm - 1 pm, close Sun; phone 951-518-7077; www.oaxlibrary.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.