San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts returning to Costa Rica

The first batch of more than 4,500 pre-Columbian artifacts unearthed in Costa Rica have returned after a 77-year stay at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

In an attempt to have the world’s largest collection, the Brooklyn Museum gathered thousands of artifacts from around the world. The Costa Rican pieces belong to the Keith Collection, a mass of artifacts accumulated by Minor Keith, an American businessman and Brooklyn native who donated the pieces in 1934 after a long and prosperous career in Costa Rica’s railroad and fruit industries.

Curators at the Brooklyn Museum are minimizing inventory by returning pieces to their countries of origin. While the pieces may have been excess in New York, Costa Rica National Museum director Cristian Kandler explained the significance they hold here.

“Indigenous societies continue to be a great unknown. The northern zone is almost forgotten. The southern zone is largely unknown when in fact the natives in Talamanca resisted the Spaniards, their tactics and attempts at colonization,” Kandler told The Tico Times.

The returning pieces will arrive in three stages over the course of three years. About 300 pieces from the Keith Collection will remain in Brooklyn.

Acquiring the pieces from Brooklyn was easy but packaging and shipping them proved troublesome. Attempts were made to raise the necessary $59,000 from the public before the National Insurance Institute stepped in and donated $88,000 for the relocation. The first shipment consists of 981 pieces and arrived on September 19.

“Here we have a lack of information about our indigenous history,” Kandler said. “This collection will help educate Costa Ricans and the world about our past.”

The exhibit will open October 20 and run for six weeks. An arrival date for the next shipment of artifacts has not been determined.

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