Mar del Plata Museum of the Sea
A gift box containing fifteen seashells, and delivered to 18-year-old Benjamín Sisterna from his brother in 1932, created a lifelong fascination with sea shells and oceanography in the young man. Twenty-six trips around the world in sixty years resulted in a personal collection of over 30,000 shells, fossils and marine invertebrates, among other items.
Sisterna's death in 1995 left the collection to his heirs, who began work on the Museo del Mar, The Museum of the Sea, in Mar del Plata. Born in Santa Fe, Argentina, a city far from the Atlantic Ocean, Sisterna had lived in seaside mar del Plata for the last 40 years of his life.
Inaugurated on September 22, 2000, the museum was divided into four levels:
- The ground floor included the lobby, which featured a map of the world tracing Sisterna's exploratory travels. The gift shop, Benjamin Sisterna Auditorium and the Gloria Maris Café (named after the hill on which the museum was built) lead from the lobby, and were surrounded by aquaria and glass cabinets.
- A lower level housed geological displays, and was laid out in a hall reproducing a submerged cave. The cave featured a central pond inhabited by smaller marine organisms, and is connected with the ground-floor aquaria.
- The second floor was divided into two areas, including one exhibiting contemporary art and cultural objects, and the nacre and seashell collection hall, where exhibits were displayed and labeled in glass cabinets.
- The third floor featured a photographic gallery of Sisterna's travels and of oceanography generally, as well as a vantage point towards the lower the floors designed to visually integrate the aforementioned displays. The hall lead to a children's activities section, a meteorological station and an observation deck, which provided an expansive view of the city and ocean beyond.
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