The Jade Museum has been one of the top must-see cultural institutions in San Jose, Costa Rica for years. And now, it's likely going to surge even higher on the list of things to do in that Central American nation, as the organization prepares to debut a brand-new, U.S.$21 million facility that will -- for the first time ever -- allow the facility to display every single one of the artifacts that make up its impressive collection.
The sparkling new home of the Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina -- the Museum of Jade and Pre-Columbian Culture -- officially opens its doors on May 26, 2014. But during my most recent visit to Costa Rica to attend Expotur, the nation's annual tourism convention, I got a sneak peek at the new facility, housed in an eye-catching piece of architecture designed to evoke the shape and texture of jade itself. It's hard to miss this new, five-story landmark, which sits next to Plaza de la Democracia, conveniently close to other attractions in downtown San Jose.
The new museum space -- which spreads across more than 75,000 square feet -- is so large that it will allow the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (the National Insurance Institute, which operates the Jade Museum) to exhibit the entire collection for the first time in history. Nearly 7,000 pieces -- including jade, ceramics and stone artifacts that date to centuries between 500 B.C. and 1500 A.D. -- will be on view when the doors open to the public.
A large, colorful painting by César Valverde Vega, one of Costa Rica's most important artists of the 20th Century, hangs in the entrance, which leads visitors into a soaring atrium flanked by five floors of exhibit space. The museum is fascinating not just because of its priceless artifacts, but also thanks to its insight into the culture and traditions of the pre-Columbian residents of Central America, including how they hunted, how they ate, how they fought and how they died. A fifth-floor gallery allows visitors the chance to see dozens of additional pieces that didn't make it into the themed exhibits.
Since I visited before the museum actually opened, the preview photos I made for this exclusive report were done with flash, in exhibit areas with bright maintenance lighting, rather than the appropriate exhibit lighting. But it's still easy to see how great the new venue looks.
The new space will be open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.