Plans for new Museo de Jade to be outlined Thursday

A.M. Costa Rica file photo This is the museum's present location

Government officials are moving ahead with plans to build a new Museo de Jade, a project which has been stalled for years.

President Laura Chinchilla is expected to join with the executive president of the national insurance company Thursday to outline detailed plans for the project. The museum is operated by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, and now the facility is housed in the first floor of the insurance company’s tower on Avenida 7 north of Parque España.

The proposed new structure is part of a corridor of museums that the government is planning to create. The proposed site is west of Plaza de la Democracia. The Museo Nacional is on the east side. Since at least 2009 a sign has marked the location, a former parking lot that was closed down then in anticipation of construction. The idea of a new museum there dates from at least 2008.

The major obstacle to building the $7 to $8 million proposed museum has been finances, and a similar gathering to announce plans was canceled two months ago while lawmakers continued to wrestle with Ms. Chinchilla’s new tax plan. Now that plan has been approved in initial debate, and officials are awaiting approval from the Sala IV constitutional court.

In the past, the insurance institute said it would bear all the costs, but the money had been slow in coming, although the site has been purchased.

The purpose of the meeting Thursday, according to a press release from the former insurance monopoly is to reveal the conceptualization of the museum. It also promised to construct a building to display all of the museum’s collection. Now only some 1,355 of the 5,256 pieces held by the museum are on display, said officials when the building project was first announced in 2009.

Despite its name, the museum contains much more than jade pieces from pre-Columbian cultures. The displays contain a full treatment of former and present native cultures of Costa Rica. The insurance institute paid for the shipment of about 1,000 pieces of the Minor Keith collection to be returned to Costa Rica from the Brooklyn, New York, Museum, Keith shipped some 16,000 pieces to the United States in the 19th century.

He was president of the United Fruit Co.

The current site is better than the 11th floor location that housed the museum earlier. Access for visitors always was a problem, and the museum only had been open during normal business hours. In 2004 a plan was floated to build an external elevator on the face of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building so visitors could get to the museum at times when the entire building was not open. But then-president Abel Pacheco quickly shot down that plan for financial

Although the museum is less known than the national museum or the Museos del Banco Central under the Plaza de la Cultura, it received increased visibility with a series of evening tours that brought participants to galleries as well as the museum.

The museum began in 1977 when insurance officials decided to start a collection to counter the pot-hunting tradition that was putting many artifacts into private hands. Three years later, the collection received the name it bears now.

Both the national museum and one of the Banco Central museums, the Museo del Oro Precolombino, have extensive holdings of pre-Columbian artifacts. Presumably, the conceptualization mentioned in the new release will define how the new Museo de Jade will differ from the others.

In Costa Rica, the word jade refers to objects made from stone and usually hung on the chest as ornaments and talismans. The authentic jade comes from a major source in the Río Motagua in Guatemala.

However, other stones with different color tones made from local materials sometimes have the same cultural and symbolic importance as pure jade, according to experts at the national museum quoted in previous articles.

The reason for this is that the word jade is associated with the color green. The manufacture of jade objects reached its peak between 300 and 800 A.D. Indian cultures manufactured collars, headdresses, earrings and other body adornments.

The Aztecs in México offered the invading Spanish jade, which they considered more valuable than gold, although both materials held a high place in religious life.

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