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Around 10 years ago, BHP Billiton Escondida began a partnership with the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Santiago. The aim was to look for opportunities to make Chile’s rich Indigenous culture more accessible to the Chilean population. The relationship grew and a concept was developed for an exhibition space, ‘Chile before Chile’, hosting a collection of important artefacts representing the different cultures of the inhabitants who have lived in Chile for 15,000 years.

The ‘Chile before Chile’ exhibition aims to strengthen national identity through knowledge and appreciation of Indigenous Peoples, promoting diversity, stressing the importance of cultural heritage, and contributing to building a healthy and authentic relationship with Chile’s Indigenous communities. The project also included cataloguing the museum’s extensive archives and developing a comprehensive outreach program to the public, presenting stories that give dignity and recognition to the original inhabitants of the land.

The completed project was made possible by a public-private partnership between BHP Billiton Escondida and a private family foundation, in collaboration with the Municipality of Santiago and the National Council of the Arts. The upgraded museum includes a renewal of the previous exhibition galleries and a subterranean construction with a new gallery, deposits and labs that total more than 800 square metres. In just four months, more than 20,000 people have visited the museum, including school groups.

The project forms part of a broader public effort to rebuild the historical city centre of Santiago. Museum director Carlos Aldunate believes it ‘responds to an urgent need for Chileans to recognise our cultural identity and diversity’. The exhibition has enabled Chileans to connect with their rich Indigenous history and demonstrates the contribution Indigenous Peoples have made to the cultural fabric of Chilean society.

Read more on our community investment activities in the BHP Billiton Community Review (PDF 3.6 MB)

 Timing Investment

2009 - 2014

US$17 million

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