This comprehensive, chronologically dated collection covers the full breadth of Ecuadorian history, from the relics of ancient civilizations to contemporary works of art. A trip here will provide a small sense of just how culturally rich this small country has been and still is. The sprawling institution will take at least half a day to see. Beginning in the Archaeological Gallery, visitors come to a vast array of pieces dating to 11,000 B.C., well before the Incas, including a mummy from the Cañari culture, and the sitting sculptures of the "Gigantes de Bahía" from the Bahía culture. Perhaps more memorable is the Golden Court, filled with gold masks, figurines, and chest decorations often attributed to indigenous groups that worshiped the sun. The Colonial Art Gallery contains pieces from 1534 to 1820 that focus primarily on women and the sun. Much of it is also quite gory, as this was the period in which the Catholic Church used paintings to scare indigenous Ecuadorians into believing in the Christian God. In the Republican and Contemporary galleries, catch the transition from European content and styles. There are lifelike portraits of independence heroes like Simón Bolívar, the tortured, thought-provoking work of Oswaldo Guayasamín, and a range of modernist works from Pilar Bustos, Camilo Egas, Theo Constante, and Enrique Tabara. Temporary exhibits can be hit or miss, though it is worth stopping in this same area for the excellent but quite small Museum of Musical Instruments.