The Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress is a non-profit institution that collects, registers, catalogs, conserves, examines, exhibits, and promulgates Guatemalan indigenous dress. Founded in 1973, the museum has a well-documented textile holding built almost exclusively on textile donations from Guatemalan collectors.
The Ixchel Museum has its own building, the first in Guatemala to be designed and constructed to specifically store, conserve, and exhibit textiles.
Designed by Guatemalan architects Victor Cohen, Augusto de León Fajardo, Peter Giesemann, Adolfo Lau, and Guillermo Pemueller, the building was built thanks to a large number of national and international donors. The leadership provided by the Foundation for the Development of the Ixchel Museum and various ad hoc committees were instrumental to the success of the project.
In April 1991, the first stone of the complex was laid, and in November 1993 the three-level building with 3000 square meters of construction was opened to the public.
The frieze of the building is decorated with a distinctive textile symbol, the rupan plato, a design woven into the huipils and over-huipils of Comalapa. It represents a plate used in church when fruit and bread are blessed as part of cofradía rites.
Since 2000, in addition to private donors, the museum has been awarded four grants to help undertake projects of conservation, storage, and documentation of the textile collection: the first was granted by the John Paul Getty Foundation, a prestigious U.S. organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage; followed by the Government of Finland; the Carene Foundation; and the Ambassador’s Grant funded by the U.S. Embassy.
Thanks to these grants, more than 60% of the museum’s collection has been catalogued and stored in accordance with modern conservation methods and norms, using appropriate materials including boxes, acid-free paper, and wadding. Each item has been photographed and analyzed to determine its state of conservation, and documented as regards materials and techniques employed, colors, sizes, etc. This information was registered both manually and in a specially-designed digital program.
The Ixchel Museum consults with textile specialists, investigators, students, weavers, and professionals from different fields, both national and foreign. Also, it is in constant communication with museums in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere for the exchange of information and, in some cases, assessment in specialist fields.
The museum has presented textile exhibitions in learning centers throughout the country, such as that carried out in Comalapa thanks to the support of the Pro-Teje Textile Committee (the Committee for the Protection of Weavers). Over the years, the museum has participated in textile exhibitions in museums and institutions in Germany, Colombia, Taiwan, Spain, U.S.A., Italy, and Chile.
On 19th December 2007, the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Dress, represented by Thelma Chacón de Willemsen, Vice-President of the Pro-Teje Textile Committee, and Licenciada Barbara Knoke de Arathoon, Curator and Technical Director of the institution, accepted from the Queen of Spain the V “Queen Sofia” International Prize for Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, at the headquarters of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI) in Madrid.
This prize was awarded by the AECI to the Ixchel Museum in recognition of its outstanding work for the defense, documentation, technique recovery, and conservation of the textile tradition in Guatemala.
On 26th February of each year, Guatemala’s Cultural Heritage Day is celebrated and the Ixchel Museum has been honored for its work in protection, conservation, documentation, rescue, diffusion, and educational projection of the country’s textile heritage. On 14th December 2006, the National Order of Guatemalan Cultural Heritage was awarded by Oscar Berger, then President of the Republic, to the President of the Association of Friends of the Ixchel Museum, Rosemary M. de Barillas.
On 23rd February, 1999, Álvaro Arzú, then President of the Republic, conferred on the Ixchel Museum the Order of the Quetzal in the Grade of Knight Commander in recognition of the role it had played for 25 years in the conservation, collection, investigation, documentation and diffusion of the textile heritage of Guatemala.
On 11th October, 1998, the Ixchel Museum received recognition from the University of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Spain). For many years this entity has recognized Guatemalan institutions that have done outstanding work in the execution and diffusion of projects that contribute to the consolidation of identity, with emphasis on the preservation of traditional values.