By Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso

Exterior of the Geology Museum

In one of the most traditional neighbourhoods in the north of Mexico City, Santa María la Ribera, is located a notorious place in the history of science in Mexico, Museo de Geología.

As part of urban changes proposed for the city, new neighborhoods were built on mid-nineteenth century, being one of the first Santa María la Ribera on 1861, but it was during president Porfirio Díaz period, between 1885 and 1915, when the city suffered numerous changes, most of them remained until our days.

By the end of the century, Government created an institution dedicated to scientific research, popularization and teaching of Geology in order to know about exploitable natural resources in the country; on 1886, Antonio del Castillo took the initiative to create a National Geological Commission. On September 17th, 1888, the National Congress decreed the creation of the National Geological Institute, dependant of Secretaría de Fomento, Colonización e Industria (Promotion, Colonization and Industry Ministry).

Skeleton in the Geology Museum

First research on the area were of scientific speculation that obeyed to the preparation work that it had to take effect in order to apply new knowledge in the development of mining and oil industries, usage of non metallic minerals, in addition to the use of shallow waters in the coasts and underground currents for agricultural activities. As a result of that, the first publications were Geological Sketch of Mexico, Systematic and Geographical Catalogue of Mineralogical Species of Mexico, and Bibliographic, Geology and Mining Collection, besides studies on vulcanology and paleontology.

After created the Institute a new building can house its personal were planned, and on July 17th, 1890, construction began on Fifth Street of Cypress 2728 (nowadays, Jaime Torres Bodet Street 176), under direction of Carlos Herrera López and José Guadalupe Aguilera Serrano. On June 1st, 1904, investigation began with the foundation of the Mexican Geological Society, and finally on September 6th, 1906, the building was inaugurated officially, in the occasion of the Tenth International Geological Congress. On 1917, the organism passes to be dependant of Secretaría de Trabajo, Industria y Comercio (Industry, Commerce and Work Ministry) changing its name to “Geological Studies and Explorations Department”.

On November 16th, 1929, the institution happened to be part of the recently erected National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), under a new name, Instituto de Geología (Geological Institute), same until today. In the year of 1956, administrative personal and researchers were transferred to new facilities in Ciudad Universitaria (University City), and Santa Maria la Ribera building remained exclusively like Geology Museum.

Interior Stairs, Geology Museum

Museum has three semicircular arches, a staircase imported from Germany, and a dome decorated with colorful crystals. It is a loyal representation of the variety that defines the Mexican mineral diversity. One of its areas is dedicated to mineralogy, and the other is dedicated to paleontology. All of its exhibitions are complemented with a library that has material from ancient centuries, and pictorial work created by José María Velasco, who painted a representation of the evolution of life.

Further information

A Collection of photos of the Museo de Geología on Flickr.