In Belén de Umbría there is a fantastic museum with a very unique collection. The privately run Museo Eliseo Bolívar displays indigenous artifacts from pre-Columbian times along with personal items collected by the grandfather of the museum’s current owners. I was invited for a personal tour by my student, Sebastián, whose family runs the museum. I visited with my girlfriend, Marisol.
The museum is set in a beautiful home with a large open courtyard on the outskirts of Belén. The views of the town and surrounding green hills are amazing.
The first rooms are the ethnographic section, showing old photos of Belén and displaying rare personal items, old irons and other household items, a Victrola phonograph, and an antique movie reel from Germany. The library contains many books printed in the 1700s and magazines from the mid 20th century. There is also a small chapel with priceless ceramic religious figurines.
In the main gallery, there are countless artifacts from the indigenous Quimbaya people who once populated the area. Ceramic pottery, small tools, ceramic figures, and more are housed behind glass cases. Some of the pieces in the collection are totally unique and can not be found in other museums in Colombia.
Scattered among the Quimbaya artifacts are more modern items, such as a money collection from several countries around the world, religious artifacts, paintings, articles of clothing, and even cannonballs.
We were also able to see a stereoscope with rare photos from the early 20th century. This is only one of two stereoscopes known to exist in all of Colombia. I’ve also seen the other one at Caliwood in Cali.
Admission is free but it’s important to call ahead to schedule a visit. Follow this link for more details. The museum is a must-see if you are in this part of Colombia and is worth the trip. The hospitality of the family and the wonderful collection are both treasures of Belén.