costa rica musuems, san jose gold museum costa rica
The Gold museum, in downtown San Jose, is easily the country's best with thousands of different examples of Pre-Colombian gold artifacts. The pieces in the collection date from 500 BE to 1600 AD, when the new world was discovered by Christopher Columbus an the artifacts range from simple round earrings to intricately worked representations of local animals. Tastefully exhibited with great lighting and clear concise descriptions, the museum opens a window into the past and into lives of those indigenous groups that lived in Costa Rica.
Columbus himself is responsible for naming the country when in 1502, on his forth voyage to the new world, he discovered Costa Rica. In a letter back to the crown he described his meeting local Indians that where adorned with numerous gold ornaments. He go on to describe the different artifacts in detail and conjectures as to the richness of the coast and its people. Sadly, as many a conquistador was to find out later on, Columbus was wrong about the amount of gold to be found in Costa Rica. Because of its scarcity, gold was a very important and highly prized commodity in the lives of the Indians. It was extremely important in their religious ceremonies and in the differentiation between social classes.
The exhibit itself is not the only reason for visiting the museum, although it is definitely stands on its own, the building in which it is housed is also unique and interesting. Situated under the Plaza de la Cultura and next to the National Theater the museum extends down three stories underground. The long sweeping spiral staircase that connects the different levels is the architectural center piece. With plenty of room, aside from the main gold exhibit, the museum is often the setting for many different traveling art shows. Currently an excellent exhibition on the architectural history of Costa Rica is on display with the museum itself an important example.
In the 1950's the Central Bank of Costa Rica began collecting numerous archeological objects, many of which are pieces now found in the museum. It was an attempt on the part of the Costa Rican people to preserve and protect their cultural heritage, but it s not until 1982 that the collection had a permanent home. In 1975 it was decided that a fitting gallery should be constructed with many different design options reviewed and discarded in favor of the present, underground proposal After six years and many different modifications to the original project the museum was opened and quickly became an integral part of the cultural landscape of San José.
Today, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, the museum is fulfilling its role as protector and promoter of this precious piece of Costa Rica's history. Every day the museum is filled with tourists and local students alike learning and understanding a little more about what makes this a special and unique country.
(photos courtesy of the Gold Museum)