La Palma’s Island Museum

The entrance to the island's museum, beside the church of San Francisco, Santa Cruz de la Palma
The entrance to the island's museum

The Island’s Museum is in the old convent of San Francisco. The building itself is lovely. It dates from the early 16th century; work started in 1508, just fifteen years after the Spanish conquest. (Forty years ago, it was the technical school, and my husband studied there. It certainly looks better than the concrete box I studied in.) The church is still a church, and the music school stands beside the museum, so you often get music floating out over the square.

The building has two courtyards, one of which is full of orange trees, planted by the great and the good who came for the official opening of the observatory, in 1985.

The courtyard with the orange trees, Island Museum, Santa Cruz de la Palma
The courtyard with the orange trees.

The inside reminds me of a cross between an attic and the Discworld’s Unseen University. There’s a bit of almost everything. It’s a surprisingly large museum for such a small island, and I think most of the collection was donated by people who felt they couldn’t throw the Granny’s old stuff out, but certainly weren’t about to give it house room. Don’t get me wrong: it’s all nicely displayed and labled. It’s just that you never know what you’re going to find around the next corner. That’s exactly what I loved. Besides, I wouldn’t want a collection of stuff sharks heads at home either. Much better to have them here, delighting blood-thirsty 8-year-olds. (Kids will be happy to hear that some of them have serious teeth.)

Downstairs, I they have woodworking tools (lots for shipbuilding), lots of sea shells, starfish, turtles, a seal, lots of birds, tools for preparing flax, wool and silk, a loom, drinking troughs for animals, straw baskets, and probably a partridge in a pear tree and a kitchen sink.

Upstairs there’s a small selection of paintings (some very old) and musical instruments.

For most of the year the museum is open from Monday-Saturday, 10 am to 8 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm. In high summer (July August and September) they open Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm only.

Stuffed sharks and other fish, Island Museum, Santa Cruz de la Palma
Stuffed sharks and other fish.

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