By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Museu Nacional (National Museum) in Rio de Janeiro houses the largest collection of natural history and anthropology in Latin America and was the first scientific institution in Brazil. The museum exhibits interesting pieces in geology, paleontology, natural history, ethnology and anthropology, and is located in a beautiful park in Zona Norte’s (North Zone) São Cristóvão.
The National Museum’s collection contains 20,000 items, of which around 3,000 are composed into various thematic exhibitions open to the public.
The exhibitions show everything from the creation of life, such as minerals, fossils and animals, ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Romans, to artifacts from indigenous people in Brazil, such as tools and clothing.
The most prominent pieces include the largest meteorite ever found in Brazil. Weighing in at 5.36 tons, it os one of the largest in the world. The meteorite is openly displayed, so that visitors can run their hands over its surface.
Another highlight in the anthropology section is “Luzia”, the oldest skeleton discovered in Latin America, estimated to be around 11,000 to 11,500 years old.
There are also various life-sized dinosaur fossils, both original findings and replicas. An impressive example is the almost three meter high head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex) dinosaur, a replica from the fossils housed in the Black Hills Museum of Natural History in South Dakota.
The National Museum was created in 1818 by the King of Portugal Dom João VI to promote scientific research in Brazil. It was then continuously supported by the Imperial Family, who gathered many items themselves to add to the museum’s collection.
Today the National Museum is located in the former residence of the Imperial Family in Rio, the Paço de São Cristóvão (São Cristóvão Palace), located in Quinta da Boa Vista Park.
The museum collection was transferred to the palace, after the Imperial Family had left Brazil. Since 1946, the museum is administered by the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), whose offices and laboratories also occupy a large part of the palace.
The surrounding Quinta da Boa Vista Park is a popular spot for picnics and family gatherings, especially on the weekend, as there are plenty of nice lawns to sit down and enjoy the sun. Further attractions of the park include a small lake with Swan-shaped paddle-boats and several caves spread out in the park.
Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes enthused the park in O Globo, “I think it’s a great park of the city, in fact, it is Rio de Janeiro’s large suburban garden and we should invest more in it.”
For a nice day trip, especially with children, the visit to the museum and park could be further combined with a visit to the nearby Maracanã Stadium (currently under construction until the End of May), the Rio Zoo, which is located in the same park, or the Feira de São Cristóvão in the evening.
The National Museum and Quinta da Boa Vista Park can be easily accessed by Rio Metrô. Just take Line 2 to São Cristóvão station and exit via Quinta de Boa Vista. After crossing the catwalk, the park is already in view. From the entrance of the park it is only a short walk to the museum.
The exhibitions of the National Museum are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10AM to 4PM. Admissions are R$3 for adults, free for children under six and R$1 for children aged 6 to 10 years old. For more information please visit the museum’s website here (in Portuguese).