Located overlooking the Plaza del Democracia, Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, is on Calle 17, between Avenidas Central and 2nd. What is interesting is that it is housed in an old fort once belonging to the Juntas and the bullet holes in the old tower provide evidence of it's part in Costa Rica's civil uprising in 1948. Surrender of this fort for the purpose of the museum was part of the conditions to dissolve the national army, to symbolize the unifying of the country and of course to ensure support from certain foreign nations. Since it's beginning in 1887, this is the fourth home for the museum.
For more on the history of the building go to: www.museocostarica.go.cr
Once you enter the main entrance (fee is $6.00 US) you are in a beautiful courtyard. As the social centre of the former fort it also served as a place for the laundry and other daily chores to be done.
Going down a flight of stairs-and yet you are still above the street level-we entered the men's barracks. Cement walls, open latrines and showers and of course the guard tower where the soldiers could keep watch through small openings. Also found in this area were the small cells for prisoners but more often for soldiers who needed to learn a lesson about morals and dedication to the cause. Everything was made of cement and I can only imagine how stuffy the air got.
The other buildings of the former fort house many different historical collections, a pre-Columbain exhibit, stories about the history of the money and the formation of the National Bank along with many artifacts from Costa Rica's past. Of particular interest was the Nobel Peace Prize won by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez, in 1987. For his biography go to: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1987/arias-bio.html
The rooms across the back recreates the typical atmosphere in a colonial home. The walls, roof, floors, windows and doors are original from the time period and belonged to a home in Guanacaste Province. It was dissembled and brought here for this exhibition. The bedroom and the dining room reflect the simplicity of the times with very few pieces of furniture. Actually I though it was well furnished but then I think "less to dust"!
Original pieces of sculpture adorn the courtyard and don't forget to visit the Secret Garden, a butterfly display, on the lower level.