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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Costa Rica Part 14

    Friday, August 11, 2017
    San Jose, Costa Rica

    Welcome to the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Welcome to the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Two decorative urns at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Two decorative urns at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    I went back over to the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, but it was closed again, despite what the lady at the ticket counter told me yesterday. This time, I walked over to the actual door of the museum to see if I could find a bi-lingual clue, and noticed a sign that said it was closed while they were installing a new show. Bummer!

    Hall 2, The Jade, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Hall 2, The Jade, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Instead, I walked a few blocks over to the Jade Museum, which exhibits the most important collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the Americas. Housed within a huge, 11-story tall building with a minimalist exterior built in 2014 especially for it, the collection is presented in six glitzy, modern, multi-media-saturated Halls (which, if you have a cold, unfortunately contains no Mentho-Lyptus).

    A diorama depicting an ancient Costa Rican tribal curing ritual at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    A diorama depicting an ancient Costa Rican tribal curing ritual at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hall 3, The Day, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Hall 3, The Day, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hall 1, Threshold, displays the cultural and ecological scenario in which the ancient societies that produced the jade were developed. (This mostly went down between 500 BC to 800 AD.) In this Hall, a large variety of jade objects are on display within a snake-like showcase. Too bad the only way I learned this is from the brochure, because this section was closed on the day I visited.

    Two stone sculptures at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Two stone sculptures at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hall 2, The Jade, is chock-full of actual ancient carved jade artifacts depicting gods and goddesses, shamans, frogs and snakes, plus plenty of audio, video and photographic panels that present the ancient process of jade preparation, as well as its social, symbolic and shamanic ceremonial use. The highlight of this section is a semi-circular frosted glass enclosure that you can walk around in while gazing at animated projections of crude animal figures and symbols. In the center is a video projection of a shaman conducting a ritual accompanied by some eerie whispering.

    Hall 3, The Day, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Hall 3, The Day, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Small, ancient tables for grinding corn stand up on end at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Small, ancient tables for grinding corn stand up on end at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hall 3, The Day, highlights the daily life of the tribes (via statuary situated in dioramas) and their relationship to the natural surroundings and the animals that they represented in jade, stone, ceramics, etc. This section also covers their daily hunting and gathering activities, as well as hut architecture. Hall 3 also includes an impressive, illuminated display picturing an explosion of jungle foliage next to a stream embedded under a glass floor, which, when combined with all of the other audio / visual stimulation, makes for quite an immersive experience.

    Quite a character at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Quite a character at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hall 4, The Night, takes a look at the bat and its place in pre-Columbia folklore, plus the intricacies of tribal warfare and funerary rituals. Hall 5, The Ancestral Memory, stresses the importance of archeology via a sand pit, in which children and adults alike can “dig” and pretend to make an important discovery of their own. (Surprisingly, the design of the faux rock wall around the sand pit looks a bit cheesy; it’s not at all up to the high visual standards of the rest of the exhibits in the other halls.) This section also takes a look at the body art of Costa Rican tribes, plus their musical instruments, and the utensils of their daily lives and ceremonies.

    Hall 6, Visitable Collection, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Hall 6, Visitable Collection, at the Jade Museum in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Hordes of pedestrians on Central Avenue in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    Hordes of pedestrians on Central Avenue in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    The final section, Hall 6, Visitable Collection, presents a cornucopia of the kind of traditional glass cases you would see in a dusty old museum completely stuffed full of carvings made out of jade, ceramic, stone, bone and shell that comes from the three different archeological regions of Costa Rica: Grand Nicoya, Central and Grand Chiriqui. Long before this point, most visitors have seen more jade than you can shake a bar of Irish Spring soap at, so a quick look-see is really all that’s needed on this floor. Overall, I give a hearty thumbs up to The Jade Museum, and highly recommend a visit if you ever find yourself in the fine city of San Jose, Costa Rica.

    No bullshit on Central Avenue in San Jose, Costa Rica.
    No bullshit on Central Avenue in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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