San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica receives money for first transfer of Brooklyn Museum collection

Costa Rica’s National Insurance Institute (INS) has committed to paying the initial $59,000 towards the transfer of pre-Colombian artifacts from the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

The stone and ceramic pieces are part of the railroad tycoon Minor C. Keith’s collection and were exported in waves during the time Keith was president of the United Fruit Company.

The Brooklyn Museum inherited them following Keith’s death in 1929 and as part of an effort to streamline their collection, has offered them in a donation to Costa Rica.

The transfer for the first set of items (close to 983 in total) is expected to cost $59,000; a price which the national insurance monopoly, INS, has volunteered to pay. The rest of the items are awaiting processing in New York as the Brooklyn Museum decides which of the 4,500-piece collection it wants to keep.  

“Some are saying that the Brooklyn Museum is keeping the best of the collection and what they are giving us are items of lower quality or aren’t worth anything,” said Museum Director Sandra Quirós. “This is not true.”

Quirós said the pieces represent an “enormous” value to the country both in their historical value and research potential.

Cultural Minister Manuel Obregón praised the institutional collaboration as having the potential “to make the difference.” He said an aim of his ministry is not just recollecting on lost artifacts for the national museums, but redistributing them in cultural centers in their regions of origin.  

He expressed appreciation for the number of people who have stepped forward in recent days to offer donations for the transfer of the Brooklyn Museum pieces.

Before INS offered to pay the shipping fee, pre-Colombian afficionados suggested charging all Costa Ricans a dollar to raise the required amount.

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