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The Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica manage, preserve, research and outreach the Archaeology, Visual Arts, and Numismatics collections of the Central Bank of Costa Rica. They offer their visitors permanent exhibitions and a dynamic program of temporary exhibits that are related to their heritage. They are housed in an extraordinary building located in the heart of San José.
To preserve, research, and foster the outreach of the national archaeological, numismatic, and artistic heritage.
To promote meaningful, relevant connections with the human and material dimension of the cultural heritage.
Since 1950, we protect, research, and disseminate knowledge on the three collections that are part of the archaeological, numismatic, and artistic heritage of Costa Rica. Our collections stand out by having one of the most relevant and varied pre-Columbian gold object acquis, the largest Costa Rican numismatic object collection in the world, and a body of Costa Rican artworks that represent each of the different decades in our history beginning in the 19th Century.
The Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica were created on May 11, 1950 by the general manager of the Central Bank of Costa Rica, Mr. Ángel Coronas; he named it History and Numismatic Museum. One month later they were named Museum of Archaeology and Numismatics. During the 1950s, BCCR began its archaeology, numismatics, and visual arts collections; it kept consolidating them through registration and cataloguing processes that were carried out in the following decades. On October 12, 1966, the Gold Museum was opened on the eighth floor of the building of the Central Bank. The first Visual Arts exhibition took place in 1970; the Numismatic Museum opened in 1990 as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Central Bank. In 1982, the collections were moved to the new Plaza de la Cultura building. At this time, they start positioning themselves as Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica (MBCCR). In 1993, the Foundation to Manage the MBCCR was created by the issuing of Law No. 7393 on November 10 of that year. This body is responsible for complying with the main objectives of the museums.
Key Moments in Our History
- On May 11, 1950, the General Manager of the Central Bank, Mr. Ángel Coronas, proposed the creation of the museums, under the name of History and Numismatic Museum. One month later, it was named Museum of Archaeology and Numismatics.
- The pre-Columbian Gold archaeology and the numismatics collections are started. In 1952, the collection of Visual Arts began; it brought together 58 works 6 years later.
- The research work of the collections is consolidated.
- On October 12, 1966, the Gold Museum was opened on the eighth floor of the building of the Central Bank.
- The first Visual Arts exhibition takes place at beginning of the 1970s.
- In 1971, the first Numismatics exhibition was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Costa Rica's Independence.
- The first cataloging of the painting and coffee token collections is made.
- In 1978, the Central Bank of Costa Rica took on the historic challenge of constructing the Plaza de la Cultura building.
- Mr. Eduardo Faith is appointed the direction of the Museums from 1981 to 1993.
- In 1982, we opened the Plaza de la Cultura building, which was designed by the architects Edgar Vargas, Jorge Bertheau, and Jorge Borbón.
- It begins to position itself under the name of Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
- In 1985, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Álvaro Vargas Echeverría, was officially opened.
- The development of the Museum of Numismatics begins.
- The first cataloguing processes of the coin and banknote collections are carried out.
- The Museum of Numismatics was opened in 1990 during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Central Bank.
- According to Law No. 7363, the Foundation for Managing the Museums of the Central Bank is created.
- In 1993, Mr. Rodolfo Gutiérrez was appointed as the director of the foundation.
- Two years later, Mrs. Dora María Sequeira was in charge of the management. She was at the head of the organization until 2008.
- In 1997, Mrs. Olga Pizza donates her husband's banknote collection, Jaime Solera Bennett, to the Central Bank. That same year, the entire collection was registered and catalogued, as well as the new curatorial script of the Museum of Numismatics.
- Awards. In March 1999, the newspaper La Nación awarded the Museums of the Central Bank Foundation with the prestigious national award “ANCORA 1997 – 1998.”
- The Museum of Numismatics, Jaime Solera Bennett, was opened in 2000.
- Two years later, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Álvaro Vargas Echeverría, was reopened.
- In 2003, it was awarded the Identity Prize given by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.
- In September 2005, the Costa Rican National Chamber of Tourism granted recognition for its work in the cultural development within the tourism industry.
- The Museum of Numismatics began a process of total remodeling and reopens on November 1, 2005, with the exhibition “Del Real al Colón: Historia de la Moneda de Costa Rica.”
- In May 2008, Mrs. Pilar Herrero took over the management of the foundation. Four years later, Mrs. Virginia Vargas was appointed as director of the organization.
- Between the years 2012 and 2013, the Plaza de la Cultura building was recognized as one of the best in the World Atlas of Architecture of the XX Century, published by the editorial Phaidon Press of England.
- In 2012, the Foundation is appointed to manage the Central Bank's visual arts collection..
- In 2014, the new Visual Arts curator, María José Monge, was awarded the National Prize in the essay category for her curatorial research "Juego Sucio: José Miguel Rojas."
- After the transformation process of the Museum Shop, Gensler, the company responsible for the redesign, was awarded by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA.)
- In 2015, after 10 months of renovation, the Museums of the central bank (MBCCR) reopen their permanent exhibition of coins and banknotes, “Del Real al Colón Historia de la Moneda en Costa Rica.”
- In 2016, the Plaza de la Cultura underwent extensive conservation and maintenance work, which included the addition of more resources for urban accessibility.
- n 2019, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum hall reopens after its renovation. The opening to the public was on January 7, and its official opening on the 16th of the same month.
History of the Building
In the third part of the XX century, the city of San José had such major architectural and demographic growth that the space for its inhabitants was occupied by buildings, buses, and cars. As a result, various people from the cultural field began to raise the need to give the city public spaces that would improve the quality of life of the visitors to the capital. The Plaza de la Cultura project was born within this context, in 1973, after the Theater building was declared a National Monument and the surrounding area was declared of public interest. In 1975, the Central Bank of Costa Rica took over the financing and execution of the project in order to have a space to exhibit its pre-Columbian gold, numismatics, and art collections.
Costa Rican architects Edgar Vargas (1922-2007), Jorge Borbón Zeller (1933-2018), and Jorge Bertheau Odio were in charge of the design.
The equilateral triangle is the basic unit of its design. With this, a design grid is formed, present both in the floors and the ceilings.
The sloping walls at an angle of 60 degrees generate a vanishing point and the shape of an inverted truncated pyramid.
In order to communicate the three underground levels, a monumental spiral staircase was built that dominates the interior space and is representative of the entire building.
The building is made up of reinforced concrete walls approximately 12 meters (39 feet) high.
It has unique details such as the Guanacaste marble floor and the Cenízaro (Samanea saman) wood handrails of the stairway.