Museum of Panama City

The Museum of Panama City has become an integral component of Panama City’s 500 year celebration on August 15, 2019. The Museum of Panama City is an initiative that seeks to present public spaces as itinerant exhibition halls, with the aim of encouraging dialogue among visitors.

Museum of Panama City MUCPA

This new cultural space will be an institution that is relevant, useful and close to people so that they can create content for exhibitions, propose activities and share with others. The Museum of Panama City (MUCPA) proposes to include the voices of citizens and residents as the main actors in the shaping of Panama City’s history. In order to achieve this, the Museum of Panama City will focus on inclusion, where over 600 people have participated to date. 

Museum of Panama City Location

The Museum of Panama City, including its exhibitions, activities and programs, intends to become an agent of change to generate a new way of perceiving Panama City. 

The museum will be simultaneously located in the following places. Get a detailed map here.

  • Avenida Ecuador
  • Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas para Estudios de la Salud
  • Casa Museo del Banco Nacional
  • Archivos Nacionales
  • Avenida Central
  • Ruta del 9 de Enero
  • Plaza Belisario Porras
  • Teatro Gladys Vidal y Edificio Hatillo

Museum of Panama City Exhibits

  1. To the sounds of coconuts: Urbanism in Panama City (A la bulla de los cocos: Urbanismo de la ciudad de Panamá)
    • Location: National Archive (Archivo Nacional). See map here.
    • Subject: Urbanism and cartography
    • Synopsis: Panama City is perceived as chaotic, disorderly and, to a certain extent, aggressive. However, looking back, it was not always like this. Check out the National Archive to learn more about the problems that a city can face once it stops worrying about growth and structure, as well as what’s being done to mitigate the current problems and those that climate change will bring in the following years.
    • Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  2. This is how the City was (Así fue la Ciudad)
    • Location: House of the Municipality (San Felipe). See map here.
    • Subject: Photography
    • Synopsis: Casco Viejo is known today for its beautifully restored buildings, delicious restaurants and trendy rooftop bars offering spectacular views of Panama City. However, at the end of the 19th century, before the arrival of the Universal Company of the Panama Interoceanic Canal (1882), the panorama was very different. At that time, thousands of travelers were crossing the isthmus headed for San Francisco, hoping to strike it rich, leaving behind written and photographic accounts of Panama City. One such account is that of Eadweard Muybridge, famous for his research and techniques on photographing movement.
    • Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  3. Imagining the City (Imaginando la Ciudad)
    • Location: Gladys Vidal Theater. See map here.
    • Subject: Film
    • Synopsis: Is it possible to analyze a society of a certain era through film? With this exhibition + film series, visitors can explore the last 115 years of audiovisual productions in Panama City to see how the urban landscape and imagery in films have changed. 
    • Date: Screenings every Thursday from June to December at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  4. Empowered Women (Empoderadas)
    • Location: Giant prints on several buildings’ exteriors in Calidonia. See map here.
    • Subject: Women
    • Synopsis: Many women have suffered, and currently suffer, a tangible difference in roles, functions, obligations and rights with respect to men. This discrimination limits or completely voids their independence and autonomy. This exhibition challenges the observer’s preconceptions about the work that a woman can or cannot do. Who said they were the weaker sex?
    • Date: June 2019
  5. Trans-Isthmic route (Ruta transístmica)
    • Location: Virtual reality goggles located in the Cuchilla de Calidonia (see map here) and the Remón Cantera Park.
    • Subject: Historic paths
    • Synopsis:  Since its founding, Panama City has been a strategic actor on the global political stage. This exhibition highlights Panama’s role as a commercial route and what it looked like during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
      Date: August 2019
  6. January 9, 1964: Road to sovereignty (El 9 de enero de 1964: camino a la soberanía)
    • Location: Travel from the National Institute (see map here), passing through Gorgas Street (see map here) to the Ascanio Arosemena training center in Balboa (see map here).
    • Subject: Civic responsibility
    • Synopsis: Download the Museum of Panama City’s audio guides and relive the afternoon of January 9, 1964, during which a group of students decided to peacefully march towards the former Canal Zone and request that US authorities raise the Panamanian flag in accordance with the agreements signed between the United States and Panama. The students were greeted by an amped-up crowd that started to push and shove. The Panamanian flag was torn in the midst of the brawl, unleashing a wave of violence that ended in an armed confrontation between civilians and the military, as well as the subsequent breakdown of diplomatic relations between Panama and the United States.
    • Date: August 2019
  7. The culture to the street (La cultura a la calle)
    • Location: Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, Justo Arosemana Avenue, in front of the Hatillo Building. See map here.
    • Subject: Panama City cultural heritage
    • Synopsis: Through cultural manifestations, people can express where we come from, who we are or to which group we belong. However, the absence of cultural criteria in public policies of the State contributes to the destruction of cultural heritage. This exhibition will explore the cultural manifestations of Panama City’s residential communities, where we’ll realize that, in the end, we are all culture.
    • Date: September 2019
  8. Architectural Styles of the 20th Century (Estilos arquitectónicos del siglo XX)
    • Location: Various buildings in Calidonia (see map here) and Bella Vista (see map here).
    • Subject: Architecture
    • Synopsis: After four centuries of colonial architecture, the twentieth century represents a fracture in Panama City’s architectural history due to its integration of current international trends. In this exhibition, you will visit the city and get to know firsthand what are the aspects that differentiate one style from the other.
    • Date: September 2019
  9. Memories of the City (Memorias de la Ciudad)
    • Location: Avenida Ecuador. See map here.
    • Subject: Oral history
    • Synopsis: This exhibition features Panama City’s oral tradition through residents’ telling of their daily experiences.
    • Date: September 2019
  10. Panamanian style: Interpersonal stories (A lo panameño: historias interpersonales)
    • Location: National Bank House Museum
    • Subject: Art
    • Synopsis: This exhibition will explore a selection of stories that reflect interpersonal relationships throughout the centuries, featuring the voices of curators, emerging artists and members of the San Miguel community in Calidonia.
    • Date: October 2019
    • Hours: Monday through Friday.- 8 am to 4 pm

Casco Viejo Museums

Founded by the Spanish in 1519, Panama City is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas that has been continuously occupied since its establishment.

The original city center was located in Panama Viejo for 152 years. Following a series of slave rebellions, fire and pirate attacks, the city center was moved in 1673 approximately 7.5 kilometers southeast to the area known today as Casco Viejo. The relocated town, positioned on a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon hill, had better access to water and, more importantly, could be fortified. Casco Viejo’s morphological conditions were advantageous for military engineers during the construction of a city wall, which prevented direct naval approaches by an enemy. While in Casco Viejo, check out Las Bóvedas. Las Bóvedas, or The Vaults, is the name commonly used to refer to the structures that form the walls that surround the Plaza de Francia, or France Plaza. The monumental complex consists of seven vaulted spaces that made up the city’s defensive system.

Casco Viejo as a Museum

Casco Viejo, Panama’s modern day historic district and home to an array of hotels, restaurants and bars, could be considered a museum itself. Its narrow streets, colonial facades and colorful residents make any trip through Casco Viejo a unique, exciting experience. Check out 10 unique things to do in Casco Viejo.

Declared a UNESCO protected district in 1997, Casco Viejo is home to several buildings that are important for Panama’s 17th-20th century heritage. Take a walking tour of Casco Viejo to discover them all. Amongst the various structures, the most notable are the churches, especially the cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof, as well as San Felipe Neri, San José, San Francisco and La Merced, which features a well-preserved colonial timber roof. All are included within the Casco Viejo walking tour.

Casco Viejo Panama

View from Magnolia Inn’s 3C

Present-day Casco Viejo is characterized by a unique blend of 19th and early 20th century architecture inspired in late colonial, Caribbean, Gulf Coast, French and eclectic (mostly Neo-Renaissance) styles. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, building styles underwent significant changes, though spatial principles were fundamentally preserved. Casco Viejo’s layout, a complex grid with streets and blocks of different widths and sizes, is an exceptional and probably unique example of 17th century colonial town planning in the Americas. These special qualities, which differentiate Casco Viejo from other colonial cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, resulted from the construction of the railroad (1850-55) and the canal (1880-1914) that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Museums in Casco Viejo

While in Casco Viejo, check out the following museums.

Panama Canal Museum

The Panama Canal Museum, or Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá in Spanish, is a non-profit museum open to the public in Casco Viejo Panama. Located within Plaza de la Independencia on Calle 5a Este, it showcases the history of the construction of the Panama Canal and the efforts that were made to construct the canal, including the first time canal construction that was attempted (but then abandoned) by the French. The Panama Canal Museum traces the history of the construction by the United States and the transfer of its control to the Panamanian government.Panama Canal Museum

The building that houses the Panama Canal Museum is historically significant. Constructed around 1874, it served as the original headquarters for both the French Canal Company and the United States Isthmian Canal Commission. In 1912, the building served as Panama City’s Main Post Office.

The Canal Museum is filled with planning materials and interesting artifacts from the construction. Photos, site plans and much more are on display. The construction was an engineering feat for its time and placed the republic of Panama on the map. The entire museum is signposted in Spanish, and there are English speaking guides available, as well as audio tours that you can purchase for a small fee. Admission is free to Panamanians and legal residents on Sundays.

Panama History Museum

The Panama History Museum, or Museo de La Historia de Panamá, is housed within the Demetrio H. Brid Municipal Palace, located in front of the Plaza de la Independencia, diagonal to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama. The Municipal Palace is the seat of the mayor’s office and the council of the municipality of the district of Panama.

The Municipal Palace’s current structure, designed in the neoclassical style by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, who also designed the National Theater of Panama, was inaugurated in 1910. The colonial structure that stood prior to the current Municipal Palace was the Cabildo, or Town Council, that existed during the Spanish colonization. Despite the building’s relatively new construction, Panama’s Municipal Council is the oldest government institution on Tierra Firme of the American continent, initially founded in 1510 by Diego de Nicuesa in Santa María la Antigua of the Darién province and transferred to Panama City in 1519. The independence of Panama from Spain and from Colombia were declared during the Town councils of 1821 and 1903, respectively. The original acts are located within the Manuel A. Guerrero Session Room. The property was restored around 1975.

The current Panama History Museum was inaugurated in 1977 on the building’s second floor. The museum is framed in the context of the country’s history during the colonial period (1501 – 1821) the departmental period (1821 – 1903) and the republican period (1903 – present). The first Panamanian flag is housed within the museum, made by María Ossa de Amador, wife of Manuel Amador Guerrero, who also played a decisive role during the movement that led to the proclamation of the Republic of Panama.

Endara House Museum

Endara House Museum, or Museo Casa Endara, located on Avenida A and Calle 12, is the former residence of Panama photographer Carlos Endara. The building’s construction was completed in 1910, and has been beautifully restored. The museum opened in November 2008 and houses a selection of photographs and objects of Carlos Endara. A must for those interested in photography!

Museum of Religious Art

The Museum of Religious Art, located on Calle 53 Este, is part of the Santo Domingo Convent, which belongs to the list of 18 museums that are managed by the National Historical Heritage Office of the National Culture Institute (INAC). The Museum of Religious Art is Panama’s only colonial religious museum, featuring primarily visual arts from the 16th and 17th centuries and offering insight into Panama’s religious art history.

Casa Góngora

Casa Góngora, located on the corner of Avenida Central and Calle 4a Este, is the 17th century home of Paul Góngora Caceres, a Spanish pearl merchant. Casa Góngora is one of Panama’s oldest houses and an incredibly important piece of Panama’s colonial history. The house was originally constructed around 1760 and was restored in 1998-99. During the renovation, much of the original woodworking from the 17th century, including ornate doors, balconies and armor, was all kept in their original nature. The home is now owned by the government of Panama and it is the site of regular artist exhibitions featuring prominent Panamanian artists.