The one in Mexico City, I mean; National Museum of Anthropology en Inglés. They arranged a walk-through for us after closing time and let us take pictures; here are a few. Warning: kind of sad.
The artifacts spanned Mesoamerica: Mayans, Mixtecs, Toltecs, Aztecs. At one point I got interested in these times and places and read dozens of books. The problem was, the histories were full of gloom and empty of celebration; the writers were either telling tragic stories of societal collapse and European oppression, or alternatively seemed to have come to dislike their subjects.
These figures do not seem the work of happy people.
Casting my mind back, these are the two books that burn brightest in memory: Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, by Ronald Wright, and The Conquest of New Spain, by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, an eyewitness account of the fall of the Aztecs by one of Cortes’ henchmen. Both are astounding works; neither is happy.
The museum contained much that was impressive. The only things that made me smile were abstract decorations on earthenware, and finally, a scrap of cloth which had somehow survived since pre-Columbian times.
This last seemed entirely a miracle to me; the weaving was very fine indeed, and I felt the work of a long-dead hand reaching to me cross the centuries more than in all the images of anguished gods and excruciated slaves.