Museo del Canal Interoceánico
The Museo del Canal Interoceánico (Avenida Central between Calle 5 Oeste and Calle 6 Oeste, tel. 211-1995 or 211-1649, www.museodelcanal.com, 9 A.M.–5 P.M. Tues.–Sun, US$2 adults, US$0.75 students) is dedicated to the history of the Panama Canal.
The museum is housed in what started life as the Grand Hotel in 1874, then became the headquarters of the French canal-building effort, and later spent the early part of the 20th century as the capital’s central post office.
It’s worth a visit, but be prepared for some frustration if you don’t speak Spanish. Everything is Spanish only, which is a problem for those who don’t speak the language since the “exhibits” often consist more of text than anything else. However, an audio guide in English, Spanish, and French is available.
The displays tell the story of both the French and American efforts to build the canal, and throw in a little bit of pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial history at the beginning.
There’s some anti-American propaganda, and most of what’s written about the canal from the 1960s on should be taken with a big chunk of salt. Sadly, history here gives way to polemics, distortions, and pure myth.
There’s a good coin collection upstairs, as well as a few Panamanian and Canal Zone stamps. There’s also a copy of the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties that turned the canal over to Panama. You can tour the whole place in about an hour.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition