National Museum of Costa Rica Opens Period for the Registration of Underwater Cultural Heritage Assets

    It is the first time that it has been carried out in the country

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    From now until August 18th, the National Museum of Costa Rica is launching a campaign so that all persons or entities who own assets within the category of Underwater Cultural Heritage (PCS), register them and thus maintain their custody.

    In a note from the National Museum, Olman Solís, head of the Heritage Protection Department, indicated that “the registry corresponds to a process of knowing the heritage assets and their location. Its purpose is cultural, scientific and research and the people who have some of these goods can rest easy because it is not a process of confiscation of legal implications, but it is to know what we have in the country in this type of cultural heritage”.

    With this registry, the aim is to document and collect the data of the objects, who has them in custody, and their location at the national level. These data will serve to carry out an inventory. It is the first time that it has been carried out in Costa Rica, so the collaboration of citizens is very important to locate objects that are within this new category of heritage in Costa Rica.

    Registering the assets of PCS before August 18th is to demonstrate within the legal period established by the Regulation to Law 9500, that the owners become legal custodians and thus guarantee their possession, added Myrna Rojas, archaeologist, and head of the Department of Anthropology and History.

    PCS goods that are not registered will become the property of the State

    PCS goods that are not registered, once the application period has passed, will become the property of the State since people could not verify that they were obtained before that date. “That is why people must request the registration of the goods so that they can keep them in their custody,” added the archaeologist.

    “The fact that Costa Rica now has Law 9500 and its regulations on PCS matters is very important because, for hundreds of years, it was not protected, it was subject to looting, theft, and destruction of contexts associated with the different types of PCS,” explained Ifigenia Quintanilla, director of the National Museum.

    How to register?

    Registration is very easy. It’s just two steps:

    Complete the form available on the National Museum website

     You can fill it out digitally or by hand. Send the form to the email: [email protected] with a photograph of each object individually.

    If the person who wants to register an asset has any questions or difficulties, they can contact the numbers 2211-5851 or 2211-5855.

    Once you register, a professional in history or archeology will contact you to verify that the object is more than 100 years old and that it falls within the category. It is important to clarify that the value of these objects transcends the economy, their value is mainly cultural and historical, knowing them, allows us to know relevant events of the ancestors who lived or traveled through the waters of what is now Costa Rica.

    What is underwater cultural heritage?

    They are all objects of a cultural, historical, or archaeological nature that have been under the water of oceans, lakes, rivers, mangroves, and the like with at least 100 years of antiquity. This category also includes places such as remains of sinking, remains of habitation sites, and historical or pre-Hispanic origin.

    These objects and sites can be found in the territorial sea, archipelago waters, or inland waters such as lakes, natural or artificial lagoons, mangroves, swampy areas, rivers, and estuaries, among others.

    Some examples of historical objects, which fall into the category of PCS are:

    • Coins, amphorae, boxes, bottles, etc.
    • Archaeological artifacts such as pre-Hispanic vessels and human remains that have been underwater.
    • Pre-Hispanic or archaeological sites, structures, buildings, objects, and human remains, together with their archaeological and natural context.
    • Ships, aircraft, other means of transportation or any part of them such as navigational instruments, anchors and nails, their cargo or other contents, together with their archaeological and natural context.

    The role of communities

    “The role of the communities in the protection of the PCS is very important because it is linked to lagoons, rivers, and coastal areas where people live who are linked to that heritage due to their history and origins. The same convention establishes that they must be taken into account and participate and must be an active part in situ conservation”, explained the director of the Museum.

    The main help of people and communities is to notify the National Museum about the objects that are underwater cultural heritage or the places where there is this type of heritage.

    People linked to lagoons, rivers, and coastal areas can collaborate in identifying these places and objects and be actors in their conservation. The information they can provide is of great importance to make an inventory of Costa Rica’s underwater cultural heritage, which will be a vital resource for the study and conservation of Costa Rican history.

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