Historical review - Military Museum of Colombia

by Major JUAN FERNANDO RODRÍGUEZ URIBE
Military Museums Chief - Historical Memory Headquarters


In colonial times, the property where the Military Museum is located in was part of a large lot belonging to the Casa de la Moneda, the gold mint center of the Viceroyalty. The house was designed by the military engineer Alonso Turrillo de Yebra in the seventeenth century. Its origin goes back to 1620 when King Felipe III orders the foundation of the Mins of Santa Fe, the first of the continent in coining gold coins. The current building is a beautiful example of neogranadine civil architecture which was completed in 1756 by order of Viceroy José Solís. It is precisely this year when the restructuring of the whole block gives a terrain to the Ricaurte family. From this first stage, there is a piece of stone found in the last reconstruction, which is dated 1765 and probably part of the first building.

The property of Calle de la Esperanza No. 4-92 passed to Antonio Ricaurte, the courageous and brave captain who enlisted in the Patriot Army in 1813 by the request of brigadier Simón Bolívar, In the fight for freedom. From the balcony of his house, his wife Juanita Martínez Recamán - a member of a family of patriots - saw him leave to Venezuela. In the Valle de Aragua, in the upper house of the San Mateo farm, owned by Simón Bolívar, Captain Ricaurte was entrusted to its custody with a small troop of 50 soldiers. When Ricaurte saw the royalist troops taking his position, he set fire to the gunpowder and blew it away on March 25th, 1814, those who were inside perished.

Plate at the Museum facade
Plate at the Museum facade

The former home of the Ricaurte family was transformed at the end of the nineteenth century into the soap and candle factory of Ángel María Tamayo. In the early twentieth century, with the arrival of European architects, the French trend was applied to colonial buildings. Since 1910 the downtown buildings and near the central square of the Capitol became exemplary models of the new architecture. The house of the Military Museum is rebuilt between 1911 and 1913 with large rooms in order to be used as a wax factory. With a republican architecture style, it became to host the School of Engineering and Mathematics., remaining until 1932, when its space is taken by the National School of Fine Arts. By 1934 the new headquarters of the School had large rooms where copies of famous works of Velázquez, Goya, and others, were exhibited.

The War Minister José Joaquín Castro Martinez signed the decree 1354 of October 31st, 1938 and the Weapons Army Museum was created for the instruction of the land army and especially for the development of studies in the cultural and military institutes, which sought to objectively see the evolution of war material. In order to achieve this goal, it was ordered to collect one unit of each type and model of weapons and ammunition stored in the Army deposits, as well as the weapons and material acquired in existing in national historical museums. The new cultural center had the direct support of the National Museum Director, the President of the History Academy and the President of the Bolivarian Society of Colombia, who was assigned the task of obtaining and managing the elements of military and historical interest in order to be part of the Museum's collections.

At the beginning of the 1940s, the house hosts the headquarters for the National Supply State Office. Later, it is taken as a military barracks. Since 1950 a unit of the Military Police, the "Ayacucho Company" occupied this historic place.

Military formation. Current inner courtyard
Military formation. Current inner courtyard

At the beginning of 1982 the house is rebuilt, and on August 6th, 1982, President of Colombia Julio César Turbay Ayala and Minister of Defense General Luis Carlos Camacho, inaugurated Museum of Arms, using the weapons exhibited at the Military Academy. Later, it is given the name of Military Museum of Colombia.

The Museum has 9 exhibition rooms and holds the most representative pieces of the three Colombian Military Forces: Army, Navy and Air Force. Its collection comes from the material of the former Weapons Museum of the Military Academy "José María Córdova" founded in 1956.

Since its opening in 1982, the Museum answers to the 5th Department of the General Staff of the General Command of the Military Forces (currently Joint Integral Action). Since 2011 and with the creation of the Administrative Office of History of the Military Forces, the Military Museum of Colombia is regulated by the General Command of the Military Forces Adjutancy.

Conmemorative plate about the opening of the Museum in 1982
Conmemorative plate about the opening of the Museum in 1982

Perfectly organized in its exhibition, the history of the Military Forces is told from its origins, and it is exhibited in the rooms which display the collection of elements that offer visitors a historical delight in the chronological exhibition, the written information and the explanation of the specialized guided tour.

In order to carry out with this important duty, the Museum has a staff composed of officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers and civilians who are assigned by each of the Military Forces. The museum guides are wounded in action soldiers who have been trained in the collection and museum-related tasks as well as customer service skills.

Since its opening, the Military Museum has sought to make of its facilities a classroom, special painting workshops temporary exhibitions, recreational activities, and other events are organized in order to strengthen the experience of our visitors, from kindergarten children, schools, and universities.

Since its construction in the seventeenth century, the facilities of the Military Museum have witnessed the writing of the pages of the history of our country. Today that legacy is protected by the Military Forces, since in this place full of history and it is told how the men and women who maintain the democracy in our country, and how crucial their participation was in the construction of that nation-state called Colombia.


With Faith in the Cause, we will continue telling the history of our heroes.