History and Culture

Understanding History and Culture to Advance the Conquest of Liberty

At UFM, they think that liberty is key to answering the fundamental questions about human action in society; individuals interacting in society through time. By extension, history is built by individuals cooperating and/or confronting each other over the years. But history does not stay the past; on the contrary it helps us understand why things are the way they are today, and even predict where we are headed. We also think that a people should know and understand their past, to be able to advance in the conquest of liberty.

There are two important objectives for promoting the conservation and knowledge of history: to value the increasingly abundant historical-artistic heritage that UFM has been receiving over the years, and for this heritage to serve as a pretext to recall the need to focus historical studies on the action of individuals in the past. Hence, the idea is to try to explain the past as a result of the actions of each individual, not as an isolated being, but always consistent with the society in which he/she lives.

How human beings perceive things is largely affected by their judgment skills and preconceived notions. UFM promotes culture to stimulate critical thinking and develop creativity.

Projects promoting history and culture at UFM

Explorations on History

In 2006, UFM launched this program with a dual objective: to create greater recognition for the increasing amount of historical-artistic heritage that UFM has received over the years, and, at the same time, use that heritage as a reminder for the need to focus historical studies on the actions of each person in the past.

With this, UFM strives to avoid the two leading schools in historiography: the one that focuses on important individuals (princes, military leaders, political leaders); and the other, more dominant line of historical studies, which focuses the masses, understood as “nations” or “social classes.” History is built by individuals, cooperating in society or confronting each other, with the similarities and differences between members of each community, but never as an amorphous mass.

One of Explorations on History’s most notable projects is Casa Popenoe, an 18th-century residence in Antigua Guatemala, and the Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, the digital reproduction of which is exhibited at UFM itself. There are other more low key but no less important projects such as the Stelae Way, which is comprised of a collection of reproductions of Mayan stelae, in some cases unique, due to the original having been lost, or the exhibition of private money, at the School of Business.

Casa Popenoe

Casa Popenoe was built as a residence in 1632 in Antigua Guatemala by Luis de las Infantas Mendoza, judge of the royal court. Over a period of around 300 years it had eight owners until, in 1929, it was acquired by Wilson and Dorothy Popenoe. Destroyed almost in its entirety, the house was occupied by the Popenoe family, who began an unprecedented restoration project; since when it began to be called Casa Popenoe.

In their hands, it became a living example of culture as an expression of civilization. In 2007, the Popenoe family donated the house to UFM. The house has a special collection which is made up of more than 2,300 volumes of books and magazines on different subjects, notably: botany, agriculture, horticulture, flora and history of Guatemala and Antigua Guatemala. It also comprises of furniture, paintings, sculptures, silverware, ceramics, and other items of historical value. The house’s beautiful gardens are home to sixty-one species of plants.

Through Casa Popenoe, UFM has had the opportunity to reevaluate the Spanish-Guatemalan period from the 16th to the early 19th centuries (erroneously known as the colonial period), but also the recovery of Antigua Guatemala itself.


In 2006, UFM created the map library, with the mission of conserving and preserving more than 880 antique maps, donated by great individuals. Some are hanging on the walls of the Ludwig von Mises Library while others have been placed in special folders, prepared by the preservation and conservation workshop staff.

The collection of José Cecilio del Valle contains more than 350 maps from the Atlas Universel de la Géographie, Physique, Politique, Statistique et Minéralogique by cartographer Phillippe Vandermaelen. There is also a first edition of the geographical map of South America, laid out and engraved by D. Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, geographer, cartographer, engraver, and Spanish academic of the Enlightenment.

The collection donated by Samuel Bonis, an American geologist and volcanologist, includes more than 380 geological and geographic maps, mainly of Guatemala and Central America. In the Claudio Urrutia collection, we find documents, photographs, and maps on territorial points and on the creation of the Guatemala in relief map. Another valuable collection is that of Carlos W. Elmenhorst.

The oldest map in the library is Americae pars magis cognita, dated 1592, by cartographer Theodoro Bry.

Popol Vuh Museum

Since its donation in 1978, the university has housed one of the main collections of pre-Columbian art. The collection encompasses more than 5,000 objects, including masterpieces of the country’s Mesoamerican and colonial art. The university, through the museum, promotes the conservation, research, and dissemination of information on the archaeological and cultural heritage of Guatemala. It has a library of approximately 5,000 books specialized in archaeology, anthropology, history, and the history of Mesoamerican art, with special emphasis on Guatemala.

The permanent exhibition contains objects representative of all areas and periods of Guatemalan pre-Hispanic archeology. It is organized in chronological order, and covers from the first signs of human presence in what is now Guatemala, to the Spanish conquest.

The colonial period begins with the conquest, when Pedro de Alvarado arrived in Guatemala, in 1523, and ends in 1821, with independence from Spain. The exhibition includes silverware, imagery, majolica ceramics, and altarpieces.

Since 2004, lectures have been given by specialized researchers, and since 2006, school groups have been welcomed to attend workshops organized by the museum’s educational project.

Ludwig von Mises Library

The library was founded in 1971 and later baptized with this name, in honor of the illustrious Austrian economist, one of the most prominent liberal thinkers of the 20th century. It provides access to a large collection of physical and digital magazines and books, films, documents, and maps. It also offers a series of databases with unique, reliable, and up-to-date digital content.

It houses and preserves more than fifteen special collections donated to UFM, from important individuals in different areas of knowledge, among them the personal library of José Cecilio del Valle, a notable figure in Guatemalan independence.

There is also a preservation and conservation workshop, which is in charge of planning, establishing, and prioritizing the necessary measures for the care of the book, map, and document collections that belong to the library.

Currently, the library offers reading clubs, book and document preservation workshops, inductions to database management and digital files, exhibitions on various topics, cultural activities, and more.

Arteteca UFM

This program aims to promote the ideas of freedom through art. To achieve this, four main areas are taken into account: preservation, restoration, cataloging, and dissemination of works by renowned artists that have been donated to UFM. One of the great bonuses of the program is the beautification of the campus resulting from the synergy between architecture, environmental conservation, and museography.

UFM owns a collection of art, writings, sketches, notes, didactic material on art and drawing, photographs, and catalogs of the Guatemalan artist Guillermo Grajeda Mena. The collection began with the donation made by the artist’s family, and is complemented by the transfer of copyright and reproduction rights that were also granted to the university by the master’s family. A sample of his work is exhibited in the lobby and on the mezzanine of the UFM Juan Bautista Gutiérrez auditorium. The gallery was inaugurated in 2017.

Other works created by artists such as Rudy Cotton and Guillermo Garavito, among others, and that make up the UFM Arteteca, show richness, variety, and visual beauty.