The Art Heritage of Puerto Rico: Pre-Columbian to Present was the first major exhibition to survey the five-hundred-year history of Puerto Rican accomplishment in art. Beginning with the clay pottery of the Igneri Indians and the stone sculpture of the Taíno culture, the exhibition included the paintings of the important eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists, the religious folk carvings of the Santeros, and outstanding graphic works and paintings of the present day. As most of the loan objects had never before been permitted to leave the Island, this was a first occasion for many to become familiar with the art tradition of Puerto Rico.
It was an educational opportunity for all visitors to discover a significant and individual cultural achievement which has flourished over many centuries.
The preparation of the exhibition was a joint project of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio. To the Metropolitan's experience in the study and exhibition of works of art was added El Museum del Barrio's special knowledge of the Puerto Rican community and of the Puerto Rican cultural achievement. Martha Vega and her able colleagues at El Museo del Barrio worked closely with the Metropolitan's staff on every aspect of the show, and especially as regards its educational purposes. The partnership of shared work and responsibility proved to be effective, practical, and successful. This cooperation between an established central resource museum and an emerging community-based institution can be a prototype for similar partnership in the future.