Community, Culture, Liberia

Museum of Guanacaste doesn’t have resources to protect pre-Columbian works

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Translator: Arianna Hernández

At the end of the 20th century, Daniel Oduber’s family gave the pre-Columbian works that the former president had to the State. Initially, they were exhibited at the Chorotega Art Museum. However, in 2003, the National Museum took them to its facilities in San Jose because the collection was at risk in the province.

When the collection was in the province, in 1999, a man stole two pieces made of gold. The Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ for the Spanish acronym) never recovered them, La Nacion reported in a 2004 article.

Oduber’s collection never returned to what is now called the Museum of Guanacaste, even though the National Museum intended to return them a few months later. That’s what the director of the National Museum, Francisco Corrales, said in 2004.

The Guanacaste Museum doesn’t have the personnel or the resources to have permanent exhibitions in its facilities. The property belongs to the Municipality of Liberia and is administered by an association that works ad honorem.

Two of the museum’s goals are to display permanent, temporary and traveling exhibitions and to protect the heritage in its custody, such as the Oduber collection.

However, since its inception in 2007, the museum hasn’t been able to establish an economic sustainability that allows it to hire personnel, charge admission to the building or organize regular activities.

At this time, the only permanent employee is a guard who is paid by the Ministry of Public Security and whose contract is in force until January of 2023, stated the association’s president, Marelyn Jimenez.

“They agreed to keep him for six more months, but what will happen after that? [If they don’t extend the position], we’ll have to close the museum. Having that infrastructure but closed is a pain in the soul,” she added.

Jimenez also commented to The Voice that it’s difficult to get the museum going when the only income they have comes from small donations from people interested in culture.

“To charge admission, we have to have a person there and issue a document to know that that money came in. We don’t have a person nor do we have the means to generate that collection system,” she said.

Looking for Resources

Jimenez went to the municipal council members and the mayor of Liberia to request financial support. The association plans to restore the museum’s roof and is also looking for more municipal support with allocating a budget to appoint a janitor and a cultural manager.

That way, the association believes that it could have permanent exhibitions.

The mayor of Liberia, Luis Gerardo Castañeda, confirmed to The Voice that the municipality is analyzing the possibility of assigning a person in cultural management and that it could collaborate with the museum.

“I met with her (a cultural manager who wants to work in the museum) about 15 days ago because she says that they can do activities in the museum that would make money. But that requires getting busy and finding someone who has knowledge,” he said.

The Museum of Guanacaste can only host traveling exhibitions due to the lack of personnel that would allow them to protect the works. Photo: Cesar Arroyo Castro

Castañeda also specified that everything depends on the resources that the local government has for the 2023 budget.

“I’m willing to make improvements but if there isn’t enough money, it’s better to budget something good to inject more money in 2023,” he said. “I cooperate with sending a miscellany to clean the Museum of Guanacaste,” he added.

Oduber’s pieces wouldn’t be the only ones that could fill the rooms. According to the head of the National Museum’s heritage protection department, Omar Solis, the National Museum is willing to follow legal proceedings to transfer other pieces that are in their custody.

“In its collection areas, the National Museum has these pieces that Oduber had and many more that have reference to the province’s pre-Columbian historical development. Once the Museum of Guanacaste is developed and meets all the security conditions, the National Museum has no problem in providing it with said goods,” he specified.

Solis also emphasized that because of being “generalist,” the museum can organize exhibitions not only of archaeological pieces but of many other topics. “That means that it’s not just archaeological, but also historical, natural and everything that has to do with the province of Guanacaste. There could be an infinite number of expositions on topics of interest,” he explained.

Currently the Museum of Guanacaste only has traveling exhibitions that other museums decide to take to different parts of the country. On those occasions, the museum association finances the security to protect the works with money they have from donations.

A Law to Give it Resources

Former legislator Aida Montiel presented a bill to allocate a specific budget to the Museum of Guanacaste to the Legislative Assembly in the past term (2018-2022).

The initiative aims to modify the distribution of resources from the departure tax from the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. Currently 38.6% is assigned to the Municipality of Liberia, but with the modification, it would be given 28.6% and 10% would go to the museum.

The distribution would end up like this:

  • 10% to the federations and confederations of the municipalities of Guanacaste.
  • 28.6% to the Municipality of Liberia
  • 10% to the administration and maintenance of the Museum of Guanacaste
  • 51.4% in equal parts to the other municipalities of the province

The proposal is found in file 21.541 but hasn’t been analyzed in legislative proceedings. The council members spoke out against the project because it would “weaken the canton of Liberia’s comprehensive development.” The council’s president, Alejandro Morales, remembered this during the July 4 session, when Jimenez went to request more support.