Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
Deposits of the cultural patrimony collections

Depósitos Sede PavasLeidy Bonilla Vargas & Alexis Matamoros Álvarez
Department of Protection of Cultural Patrimony

Management of cultural patrimony collections (registry, administration, storage, access, use, conservation, and restoration) requires to have, among other things, an infrastructure serving as support in order to guarantee the best possible conditions for them. 

Since 2007, the cultural patrimony collections of the National Museum of Costa Rica are located in their new deposits at the Pavas Site.

The process to equip this space started when the building was purchased in 1998, with a floor plan to adequately house the collection deposits as far as space, climatic control, and conservation of objects. Having the experience and knowledge of the needs of those collections, eight spaces were designed, and today they house the archaeological collections in and out of context, documentary, historic, plastic arts, and textile collections.

The building already had an established structure which, despite being an obstacle, was attempted to be utilized as reasonably as possible so that the placement of the deposits was according to the collection needs, working areas, and service to the public.

When designing the deposits, the following was taken into account, among other things:

  • Access, with double sheet metal doors, wide and high enough to allow entry of greater-size assets as well as necessary equipment.
  • Space security, not leaving areas vulnerable to entry; installation of security alarms with control keys.
  • The most adequate climate control system for each collection.
  • Wall color: Neutrality was necessary so that light intensity wouldn't damage assets.
  • Light distribution, in a way that the shelves wouldn't be underneath lighting, or would block it; it was then installed in the hallways as well as emergency lights.
  • Plug distribution in order to plug in work, climate control, and cleaning equipment.
  • Telephone and computer terminal port installation.
  • Surface required in proportion to the number of assets stored, and their increase in the future.
  • Prime materials of each collection in order not to mix materials and thus, avoid contamination and deterioration of it. 
  • Type of furnishings—whether light or heavy shelving, mesh, hangers, gondolas, etc. to be used, and their distribution, which is important in order to take advantage of the space capacity, request the most adequate material, and make sure it conforms with specific norms in its manufacture, thereby protecting the integrity of patrimonial assets.
  • Distance between shelves and central aisles, which allows movement of assets by utilizing a fork lift, as well as stairs in relationship to some type of lift.
  • Adequate fire extinguishers to each type of collection, and the use of fire alarms.
  • Maybe some details escaped, but the truth is that after 120 years of age the National Museum of Costa Rica hays today the best deposits of collections in the country.


Since the creation, the National Museum of Costa Rica took to recollecting objects of interest for archaeology, ethnology, and history. Therefore, after 122 years of existence it has collected a great diversity of historic and archaeological assets thanks to the work of researchers and the support of persons and entities giving donations.

When in 1983 the Registry Department—now called Department of Cultural Patrimony—took over the collections at the Bellavista Barracks, these were scattered about the building and hadn't been catalogued or inventoried, and were in conditions of conservation and climate considered not apt for their preservation.

As a first step they were moved to more favorable spaces in order to house them and make an inventory, giving them an I.D. and preventative treatment for conservation. This way, at first there were nine "warehouses" that later became eleven, arranged according to  subject or type of collection. The obvious problems were humidity, crowded works, dryness of materials and therefore, fungal, insect, and termite damage.

All wooden shelving as eliminated for being infected with termites, and was substituted by metal shelving in addition to maintaining a regular fumigation plan and revision of assets, and implementing mechanical solutions to the problems of humidity and contamination—certain areas were equipped with air conditioning and de-humidifiers, all aerial windows in the deposits were shut, keeping daily registries of temperature and humidity.

Despite la efforts, by 1995 the constant growth of the collections had made the Bellavista Barracks unsuitable to expand without detriment to the exhibitions, and it was necessary to close down several rooms in order to house deposits of collections within better conditions.

Then, in 1998 a plan was implemented in order to adapt a new space in a building acquired by the National Museum in Pavas, west of San José. Work was done slowly due to various reasons, and it wasn't until May, 2007 that the Museum inaugurated the new deposits.


Translation courtesy of Silvia Piza-Tandlich /