New jade museum nearly ready to welcome tourists

The new Museo de Jade looks every bit of the  $21.5 million spent to build it.

The five floors total nearly 7 million square meters. The concrete structure is a block split in half as if by a blow similar to the force native groups used to make their stone implement and decorations.  The atrium ceiling is five stories high with one wall completely glass.

Political and cultural figures gathered Monday afternoon to inaugurate the facility. The museum will be open to the public sometime in June, workers said. Early inaugurations are the rule just before a government changes. President Laura Chinchilla was there to unveil a plaque crediting her administration for the new museum.

Guillermo Constenla, the executive president of the state insurance institute that built the structure, said credit was justified because the president’s administration worked from the first day to make the project a reality. Planning, however, goes back to 2006 when museum officials and those at the parent Instituto Nacional de Seguros saw so much archaeological material packed in boxes and crates. The plan is to exhibit nearly every item held in the museum collections. The new museum will hold 7,000 pieces, mainly  jade and ceramics.
Credit also goes to former president Óscar Arias Sánchez, who supported the project. He was in the audience Monday.

In fact, planning goes back to 2004 when then head of the insurance institute,  Germán Serano Pinto, wanted to put in an elevator to carry visitors to the 11th floor of the firm’s headquarters where the museum then was located. Then president Abel Pacheco objected to the elevators, mainly because of their price tag of nearly $3 million. So  Serano’s days were numbered.

Eventually the museum moved to the first floor’s southwest corner in the insurance institute’s tower. Some 20,000 persons visited that facility last year, museum officials said.  Constenla said that this space held but 18 percent of the archaeological pieces.

The  location of the new museum is on the west side of the Plaza de la Democracia. Planners see it as one corner of a cultural triangle that includes the nearby Museo Nacional and the Museos del Banco Central four blocks away. They hope it will be a tourism draw.

The design is by architect Diego Van deer Laat, who won the job in a contest.

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.

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. Native cultures manufactured collars, headdresses, earrings and other body adornments.

Jade objects were closely connected with the pre-Columbian shamans and the spiritual life of the native groups.

Spirituality was visible Monday. A Roman Catholic priests delivered a prayer and blessed the new facility. Then the Projecto Jiron Day, singers composed of representatives from several native groups in the Talamanca area, gave a presentation

When it opens, the museum admission will be $5 for Costa Rican residents and $15 for foreigners. Students with the proper identification or uniform will enter free.

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