In mid-2019 — at the cusp of the historical divide now known as BC (Before COVID-19) and AC (After COVID-19) — the Ayala Museum closed for a one-year renovation.
“Like the rest of the world gone awry with the pandemic,” its senior director Ma. Elizabeth “Mariles” L. Gustilo wrote on its website, “the best laid plans seemed to be at risk.”
But behind closed doors, the team continued to work. It served its patrons through a virtual component — offering digital experiences through its website and app — while working on the awaited renovation of its physical space.
Two years later, the museum is reopening, albeit softly.
What is the relevance of the museum’s opening at this time — when the term "historical revisionism" continues to create major repercussions in our society — especially for the younger generations?
“Reinvigorating the consciousness for our traditions, art, culture, and history, especially among the young, is the cornerstone of developing love of country,” Gustilo said in an interview with CNN Philippines Life. “It will make us recognize what is true, unique, and authentic about ourselves as a people. It will enable us to determine the role we can play in the grander scheme of things. It will empower us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.”
Starting February — or when the Omicron variant hopefully decides to calm down — the Ayala Museum will reopen as a museum that is no longer what it used to be. The museum’s soft opening rate, which allows timed entries to the first three floors of the museum, is ₱350; however, it remains closed until January 31. In the meantime, here’s what to expect at the revamped Ayala Museum.
It’s now phygital
Following other museums across the world, the Ayala Museum has become phygital — a portmanteau of physical and digital — with both physical and virtual aspects to complete the entire museum experience.
At the lobby, a digital gallery boasts of eight sprawling screens, featuring over 1,000 objects from the museum and library collections. Here, you can engage in interactive conversations on art and history.
The museum is proactively advancing content and narratives that represent the zeitgeist. Something worth checking out is the YouTube series called “Object Rewind,” which promotes the appreciation of museum objects from our collections by framing it in today’s reality.
It has an ethereal new lobby
Instead of the usual artwork installation, carefully proportioned wooden screens by Studio Taku Shimizu beckon, lending a warm natural feel beside the harder elements of stone, glass and steel. The screens echo the garden landscape outside — its strong lines inviting the eye to look upward.
For the designer Leandro V. Locsin Partners, this wooden element proposed by the Tokyo-based design consultant holds deeper meaning: “They imply an abstract expression of the Philippine cultural context — the patterns, basketry, craft, and mutable perceptions of Asia set against the exacting, hard, and rational structural foundations of the West.”
For Shimizu, the warmth, color and porosity expresses “a sense of breathability and lightness” to the lobby volume. “Pockets of lush greenery in an otherwise unrelenting concrete mosaic are often described as being the ‘lungs’ of the city. This vital organ within the body of the neighborhood facilitates the deep inhalation of peace and wellbeing.”
There are new exhibitions and refreshed classics
“Intertwined: Transpacific, Transcultural Philippines” curated by Florina Capistrano-Baker Ph.D. marks the opening of Ayala Museum’s renovated main gallery. It is a nod to this year’s quincentennial celebration of the circumnavigation of the world, featuring over 240 carefully curated objects that tell the story of our transpacific heritage through regional and global maritime exchanges.
Another exhibition worth the pilgrimage is “Ayala Museum: In Microcosm” curated by Kenneth Esguerra, featuring various indigenous groups combined with foreign interventions. You can also appreciate the body of work of the late Fernando Zobel, the brain of the Ayala Museum, in a new dedicated gallery.
Of course, a trip to the museum will not be complete without a visit to The Diorama Experience of Philippine History, considered the centerpiece of the Ayala Museum for the past 50 years. During the closure, all 60 dioramas were individually conserved and cleaned.
The Filipinas Heritage Library offers a café-like experience
The Filipinas Heritage Library, accessible at the sixth floor of Ayala Museum, has been refreshed by Studio Ong to make visitors feel comfortable while researching Philippine history and culture.
You can access the Filipiniana holdings, which are now over a thousand, while indulging in a view of the Makati cityscape.
You can now host an event at the museum
It is now possible to host an event at the new Ayala Museum’s list of venues. As the museum was designed with the pandemic in mind, you can be sure that social distancing and safety protocols will be in place to avoid transmission of the disease.
For announcements, updates, and event inquiries, visit the Ayala Museum website.