The museum is located at the Plaza Bolivar in a colonial building. This is exactly the right place for it, because studies of architecture belong to the research of a culture, but otherwise can be realized in a museum only to a small extent.
The building has a courtyard surrounded by a gallery of columns and round arches. Through the large windows of the gallery a lot of light flows into the exhibition rooms.
The collection begins with stone sculptures, vessels, axes and knives showing the activity of the early peoples as hunters and collectors. Skulls and mummified human heads bear witness to the early settlement of Peru.
The ceramics department contains pieces of the Nazca, Inka, Paracas and Moche, among others. Often the objects from the time before the Incas are simply called “pre-inca”.
An indication of the importance of Inca culture compared to other cultures. In this museum it can be clearly seen that the objects are in no way inferior to those of the Incas. Besides stone and ceramics, metals were a popular material. The processing of copper, gold and silver dates back a long time.
The museum houses pieces, some of which are 14,000 years old, including silver drinking vessels, gold jewellery and statues. Musical instruments also played an important role in the traditions of ancient cultures. Not to forget the section of the museum dedicated to textiles. After the visitors have left the pre-Hispanic (made before the arrival of the Spanish) exhibits behind, the arts and crafts and the decorative arts of the colonial and republican periods are on the agenda. Among them are paintings and sculptures depicting both biblical and social scenes.