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Archaeology, Illicit Trafficking and the World Heritage List

  • Christian Kandler Rodríguez
Tuesday 18 April 2017
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
E002b part of the Critical Museology course

Heritage practices at the National Museum of Costa Rica

Having been established in 1887 - in a context of modernization of the State institutions, including the educational and cultural institutions -, the National Museum of Costa Rica has a long and eventful history, and has arguably left an important imprint in the study and public appreciation of its 3 main areas of work: history, archaeology, and natural sciences.

Special function

The museum, besides of the usual activities of collecting, exhibiting, and doing research and educational activities, has a special function regarding the archaeological heritage of the country. In Costa Rica there is no institution that centralizes the protection and custody of the archaeological heritage, as is the practice in many Latin American countries; so these activities are largely the responsibility of the National Museum. For this purpose, there is a Department in the Museum, the "Dept. for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage", which has to advise and coordinate with the justice and police authorities in the seizure of illegal private collections and also to stop unauthorized excavations ("huaquerismo"), try to prevent the illicit exportation and trafficking of archaeological items, and other related functions. The museum is generally the main institution devoted to the protection and divulgation of the archaeological heritage in the country.

Precolumbian chiefdom settlements

Finally,  the museum was the main responsible and coordinating instituut for the preparation of the candidacy of a group of 4 archaeological sites in the Southern Pacific part of the country, the "Precolumbian chiefdom settlements with Stone Spheres from the Diquís" to the World Heritage List of UNESCO, which was awarded in May 2014. This was a project that had been envisioned almost 20 years ago, but demanded a very focalized work of the whole team of the museum in the years 2011 - 2013.

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