New museum exhibit shows some of Minor Keith collection

Some of the objects in the exhibit. Museo Nacional photo

The Museo Nacional has put 152 pieces from the Minor Keith collection on display.

These are from the 981 archaeological pieces returned to Costa Rica by the Brooklyn Museum. The museum here is calling the exhibit De Vuelta a Casa or “return to home.”

The museum expects to get a total of 3,000 pieces returned. The Brooklyn Museum is keeping 1,000. All of the ceramics were legally shipped to the United States by Keith, the man who built the Atlantic railroad and founded what became the United Fruit Co. There were no laws restricting export of such pieces before the turn of the century as there are today.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros paid $44,000 for shipping costs to bring home the first lot by sea in 10 wooden boxes. They include vases, pots, incense burners and even an ocarina. They had been in the United States for more than 100 years, said the museum. Most are in the museum warehouse in Pavas.

In all, Keith has about 16,000 archaeological pieces in one of the largest collections of its kind. At his death the objects were dispersed to museums all over the world.

Many of the pieces came from discoveries while the railroad was being built. One of these was the Las Mercedes site which also has been explored by modern archaeologists.

That site was occupied for 2,000 or more years. A modern exploration uncovered two stone roads. More work is planned there starting next February.

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