Contribution of Italians to exploration featured at museum

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
This is the model of the colonial fort at San Fernando de Matina.

Museo Nacional opened it’s new exhibit “Il Nuovo Mundo: La influencia cultural de los Italianos en América,” Friday in order to give visitors a glimpse of the Italian contribution to the new world beyond being named after Italian Américo Vespucio.

To reach the display, persons must follow an underground passage into a five-room catacomb, a journey that gives the impression of going on an archeological hunt. The walls are filled with 20 different 15th and 16th century maps from craftsmen such as Johannes Ruysch and Francesco Rosselli.

The exhibit is the first of its kind, in that no other museum has provided this much information on the topic, said the museum. Everything is made to look preserved and is displayed in earth tone colors of green, brown and white.

Italians were in a prime geographical position for trade and therefore controlled the trade routes, the museum noted. Each state of Italy had developed its own wealth without control from any monarchy.

The 15th and 16th century was a time for artistic, literary, scientific and philosophical renaissance.

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Mariner’s astrolabe is one display. The instrument really is a mechanical computer to solve problems of time and location.

The invention and spread of the printing press in the mid-15th century was what drove the Italians to put within the reach of large majorities and lower cost knowledge of new discoveries and access to books and maps.

This increase in scientific and technological knowledge also enabled Italian intellectuals to improve instruments and techniques of navigation and the design of new boats. Maps and nautical charts were made more precise, and there was a greater understanding of the sun and the stars to navigate. This all allowed Christopher Columbus to move west.

A few of these instruments are on display. One of the main attractions is a boat replica made from decorating the top and sides of a stage with flags and anchors. During this age of discovery, two new types of ships were designed, the nao and the caravel. These boats were more appropriate for crossing high seas.

Those who are better entertained by interactive exhibits may enjoy the origami boat lesson. Persons are instructed to write a thought about the New World on their finished work in order to be displayed later for future patrons.

Incased in the hall not far from the boat is an armillary sphere, a model of the celestial sphere used to show the movement of stars around the earth or the sun. This instrument is constructed on a skeleton of graduated circles showing the equator, the ecliptic, meridians and astronomical parallel.

Another instrument, the astrolabe, can be seen in another room. It was used for taking the altitude of stars at sea.

In the far back, a room is dedicated to fort plans in many Central American countries including Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá. A scale model of the Fort of San Fernando de Matina that includes trees, rivers and boats serves as the centerpiece of this display.

To conclude, exhibitors have included the Italians impact on Costa Rica. According to poster texts, migrants from Italian states settled mostly in Cartago. Here they participated in political life.

Overall the exhibit is full of information, that is presented in a lackluster fashion. Those who like to walk and read maps and texts of the past will enjoy what it has to offer. They just have to bring their language dictionaries because the whole display is in Spanish.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.