San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Photography Exhibit is a Blast From the Past

WALKING through the “People andStreets from Yesterday” photography exhibitat the National Museum of Costa Ricafeels as if someone opened a time capsuleand put the contents on display.The exhibit features are 150 photographs– inspired by the life of CostaRican people between the years of 1880-1930. It displays a period of time whencampesinos walked barefoot and contrasts itwith the elegance of the few rich families inthe area who wore European clothes.It was an era when oxcarts were themain source of transportation and the firstcar was a novelty thatcaptured the attention ofall who witnessed itspassing.The display is notorganized by chronology,instead it offers the audiencefive basic themes.THE individual, familyand society: This sectiondisplays photos ofindividuals and groups ofpeople. It also shows thedifferent environments,social statuses and kindsof jobs during that time period.History, coffee and the capital: This displayshows how coffee development affectedthe rural and urban areas – including thedevelopment of streets, communication andtransportation infrastructure and, of course,the changes in architecture.The city: This presents institutionaldevelopment, army, sanitation and educationin the country.The sacred and the profane: This part ofthe exhibit focuses on the religious activitiesin the country as well as popular celebrations.Photography as a memory and image:This shows the history of photography ofCosta Rica with images from variousprovinces.“THE exhibit is nostalgia with sense,where contrasts are not absent,” saidGabriela Villalobos, historian of the museumand curator of the exhibit. “Actually,there’s one photo of the 20th century showinga corn plantation and in the backgroundis the National Theater.Villalobos said the museum has beensaving the photos for almost a century.“Most of them have been donated. Theyare original pictures,” Villalobos said.“Photographers of that period were close tothose who directed the museum in thoseyears.”The photographers in the collectioninclude Manuel Gómez, Fernando Zamora,Harrison Nathaniel Rudd, William LuckePaynter, RichardPaynter and HenryMorgán.BESIDES the photographs,visitors canalso visit a replica of aliving room of a richfamily that lived inBarrio Amón (on thenorth side of San José),clothing of that time,military uniforms and ascale model of San José.“It was important tome to show people in their routines, theworries and activities of that era,”Villalobos said. “I wanted to show that oldpictures have a special magic – they take usto the daily activities of our ancestors, whoas well as us, day-by-day build history andmake their destiny.”She believes that daily activities are abridge between the past and the present.The exhibit is open Tuesday-Saturdayfrom 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Sunday 9a.m.-4 p.m through November.The museum is located betweenAvenida Central and Ave. 2 at Calle 17. Theentrance fee is $4 ($2 for students withidentification). For more info, call 257-1433.

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