The National Insurance Institute (INS) building always seemed like an odd home for the Museum of Jade and Pre-Columbian Art, generally known simply as the Jade Museum. The concrete skyscraper is voluminous, but nothing about INS screamed “artistic heritage.” Indeed, the building’s confined first floor prevented the museum from displaying its full collection.
So it only made sense that the Jade Museum reopened yesterday in its new location in the Plaza de la Democracia, a stone’s throw from the National Museum. Originally conceived in 2008 by INS President Guillermo Constenla and Culture Minister María Elena Carballo, the museum’s reopening was marked by great fanfare, including a speech by President Laura Chinchilla.
“From now on we welcome Costa Ricans, but also those who visit from other nations, to appreciate this impressive collection of jade pieces that have been stored so long,” said Chinchilla. “From today onward, it will be vindicated with a space that will allow all to enjoy the knowledge of those beautiful pieces within the Jade Museum.”
“Impressive” is the operative word: The museum’s full collection includes 7,000 individual pieces of jade, stone and pottery, among other art objects. The new building contains nearly 7,000 square meters of space, dedicated to offices, workshops and the gallery itself. Alleging to hold the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade in the world, the museum’s exhibits illustrate the history of jade and its significance to pre-Columbian peoples. Indeed, the museum does more than put carved rocks on display: Visitors learn about daily life, hunting practices, religious rituals and the archaeology that unearthed it all.
The Jade Museum was originally opened in October, 1977. According to staff, the museum received 20,000 visitors in 2013. Now reopened and revamped, the museum can probably expect a lot more.
For hours and more info (in Spanish), visit the museum’s website here (although it hasn’t yet been updated with the new location).