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National Museum in Rio de Janeiro – 200 years of History

National Museum in Rio de Janeiro – 200 years of History

An institution with more than 200 years of existence in the city of Rio de Janeiro, this is the National Museum. Another one of the projects of the royal family of Portugal, built after their arrival in Brazil for the promotion of culture in the country. Discover all the details of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro.


The National Museum was initially based in Campo de Sant’Ana (currently Praça da República and the place where Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca held the Proclamation of the Republic, on November 15, 1889). It’s currently located in the São Cristóvão neighborhood, at Quinta da Boa Vista. 



Quinta da Boa Vista was the official residence of the Portuguese royal family. The palace served as a residence for the Portuguese royal family between 1808 and 1821. The palace housed the Brazilian imperial family from 1822 to 1889.

It also hosted the first Republican Constituent Assembly from 1889 to 1891. This space was destined for use by the museum in 1892. It’s worth mentioning that the emperors and princesses of the royal family were also always present in the Imperial Palace located at Praça XV

Being one of the largest urban parks in the city of Rio, Quinta has about 155 thousand square meters. All the buildings that are within the limits of the park, such as the gardens and lakes (the work of the French landscaper Auguste Glaziou), the National Museum that functioned as the Palace of the Royal family, the statues and monuments can be seen by visitors. 


With a large green area, Quinta da Boa Vista is frequented by many people, of all ages. Many people even enjoy the region for the practice of sports during weekdays.

There is a paddleboat on the main lake of the space, multisport courts and tours are offered in the area. You can still enjoy the gardens and have a picnic. There is also a Zoo in the space, which is currently under construction and will return to work soon.


Can you imagine why the place is called Quinta da Boa Vista? Simply because of the building where the family was installed, had a privileged view of Guanabara Bay.


Address: Avenida Pedro II, s/n – São Cristóvão 

Opening Hours: Daily, from 8 am to 6 pm 

Free Entrance

How to get there: São Cristóvão Metro and Train Station


Join our Walking Tour Downtown and Lapa! On this tour, you will learn more details about the history of Brazil and the arrival of the royal family from Portugal. In addition, you will be in the company of a very fun group.


The National Museum was founded on June 6, 1818, by Dom João VI of Portugal, who wanted to promote the country’s culture and economy. This space has always functioned as a museum of natural sciences, it had collections of botanical materials, minerals, stuffed animals, numismatics, works of art and machines.

It was considered the oldest scientific institution in the country and one of the largest museums of natural history and anthropology in the Americas, until 2018. This building was listed by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) in 1938. In 1946 the Museum Nacional was incorporated into the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


The National Museum housed the largest collection of natural history and anthropology in Latin America, as it held the largest number of cultural assets. In the space collection were more than 20 million items, divided into collections of natural and anthropological sciences (zoology, botany, geology and paleontology) and anthropological (ethnology, archeology and biological anthropology).


In the natural sciences in Zoology were collections of shells, corals and butterflies. Paleontology included a type of dinosaur from Minas Gerais, the Maxakalissaurus.  

In the anthropological sciences, the oldest human fossil ever found in the country, named “Luzia”, is part of the collection of Biological Anthropology. In Ethnology were the objects that showed the richness of indigenous culture, Afro-Brazilian culture and cultures of the Pacific.

In addition to all these collections, one of the largest Egyptian collections in Latin America. This collection was started by Dom Pedro I. The collection of Greek-Roman art was started by Empress Teresa Cristina, with excavation pieces made in Pompeii.

Most of the items came from collections started in the 18th century, due to the interests of the members of the Portuguese royal family. With more than 200 years of existence, the collection has added pieces through excavations, exchanges, donations and purchases. It offered several representative sets of human production and the natural world, from Brazil and all parts of the world.

The National Museum also had one of the largest libraries specializing in natural sciences, more than 2,000 rare works and more than 450,000 volumes were registered.


Through the scientific and historical value of this space, many researches, theses, dissertations, monographs could be written. So it functioned as an important institution for university studies in the country.

This collection served as the main basis for research made by academic departments of the museum, with activities in all regions of the country and in other parts of the world, including the Antarctic continent.

In the teaching area, courses were offered in different areas of knowledge in extension, postgraduate, specialization and educational activities for the public.


Some institutions are under the administration of the National Museum, such as the Quinta da Boa Vista area and campus in other cities in Rio de Janeiro (in Saquarema) and Espírito Santo.

Even one of the oldest Brazilian scientific journals specialized in natural sciences worked with the edition of the Archives of the National Museum since 1876.


One of the main objectives of the National Museum has always been to promote and disseminate knowledge through its collection. Also, conduct research and train human resources and to produce scientific studies. And it acted in the preservation of historical, natural and cultural heritage until 2018.   


The National Museum went through many financial problems since the 2000s. With recurring cuts in funds, the amount transferred to the museum was not enough to maintain the area. The structure showed signs of poor conservation and a well-damaged electrical part.

Some rooms were closed due to the impossibility of use. There were no resources for the construction of the new annexes that would be used for research and preservation of parts of the collection.


Unfortunately on the night of September 2, 2018, just after the end of visiting hours, a major fire hit the museum.

Despite the group of the Fire Department arriving at the place in a short time, after being contacted, the fire reached the three floors of the building and ended up taking proportions out of control. 

Around 9:30 pm, several collections and exhibits that were in the front parts of the building were completely destroyed. Security guards managed to leave the scene, and no victims were reported. However, more than 90% of the museum’s collection was destroyed. Even leaving its structure even more damaged.


An official note from the Government of Portugal was sent, lamenting the immense loss of the scientific, historical and cultural collection for the country and the whole world. In January 2019 an exhibition was held with the pieces that could be saved from the burning museum. The exhibition took place in the Mint building.

In the same year, an amount was transferred to the museum for works to recover the collection and structure of the space. The amount was approved by the National Congress and a large part of the money transferred came from the Federal Budget, after many debates about maintaining the institution.

Some countries and institutions offered help in the recovery of the National Museum, including some specialists from other countries, came to Rio de Janeiro to help with the space restoration works. Undoubtedly the fire that occurred in the National Museum saddened the whole world.


Unfortunately the National Museum’s exhibitions are closed to visit indefinitely. However, weekly meetings are held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. They take place from 10 am to 4 pm through the Teaching Assistance Section (SAE), which takes place in front of the National Museum.

Some didactic collection materials are exposed and educational activities happen to the visitors of Quinta da Boa Vista. Participation is free. This is an attempt to keep the National Museum present in activities with the public.


If you would like to help with the reconstruction of the National Museum, some methods of contribution are available. See more details on the page: AID TO NATIONAL MUSEUM  

Did you like to know a little more about the history of the National Museum? Tell us!

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