The Museum of Memory opens its doors
20 December 2015
On 17 December the Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia e Inclusión Social (LUM) was finally inaugurated by President Ollanta Humala. Built thanks to the support mainly of the German government, as well as the European Union, the United Nations Office in Peru, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swedish government, the project has taken more than seven years to complete. It was in 2008 that German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Peru the funds to create the museum after she visited the country and saw the need for it to confront its past.
The project has been a long time coming, with former president Alan García first rejecting the donation and then only accepting it under public pressure. Mario Vargas Llosa, the author, led the first commission, but resigned in order to try to get Garcia’s government to abandon a proposed law that would have given an amnesty to members of the armed forces. The mayor of Miraflores donated the land and the award-winning building was begun in 2010. In 2013, conflict erupted over what the museum should contain.
Many in the human rights community were unhappy that members of the army and the police were invited to participate in the project; they considered that the museum should be a space for the victims. Critics on the right believed the museum was an excuse for the left to exculpate terrorists. At the end of the day, however, the museum is a nuanced space that tries to provide a clear narrative of what happened in Peru between 1980 and 2000. Its curators have visited many similar museums around the world and have spent much time working with victims and their families. For a full year they presented their plans to groups from all over the country, trying to be as open and participative as possible.
The opening ceremony began with a woman singing the national anthem in the Ashaninka language, in recognition of this ethnic group’s suffering at the hands of Sendero Luminoso. Speeches included those by the head of the commission in charge of the project; Humala; the representative of the UNDP; the head of the German president’s office; the head of the Organization of American States; a representative of the families of victims, and also the minister of culture. These and other visitors were able to visit the museum and its contents. They included family members of the victims, those looking for family members who are still ‘disappeared’, and members of the army and the police.
In the coming months all Peruvians will be able to visit to see what the museum means to them. There is further space for discussion in the Centre for Documentation and Research which will put many of its resources online.