By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When people think of Rio, museums are often not the first things that come to mind. However, Rio is rich in cultural centers and museums, containing a huge wealth and history, that can be visited for free or for very little money.
Sunday’s tragic fire at Rio’s Museu Nacional has further brought into sharp relief the long neglected state of many of Brazil’s cultural institutions. So here is a small selection of the great variety of museums and cultural centers that the Cidade Maravilhosa has to offer.
CAIXA Cultural (Centro)
Hosting some of the city’s best art exhibitions and film festivals, CAIXA Cultural is now facing closure in the near future in what will undoubtedly be another blow to Rio’s cultural life.
There is still time to support this institute, with a fantastic exhibition of Goya etchings currently on show for free. Those who enjoyed the recent Soviet Nouvelle Vague film showings or the Indian Film Festival can also catch the current festival of Brazilian science fiction films running until September 16th.
Museu de Astronomia e Ciências Afins (São Cristóvão)
Budget cuts to science and research in Brazil have been deep over the past few years. However, the ‘Museu de Astronomia e Ciências Afins’ (Museum of Astronomy and Affiliated Sciences) has redoubled their efforts to engage the public in the study of the stars.
João Carlos Costa, Director of the institution, commented on the question of budget cuts last year, stating, “It is not enough to ask the Federal Government for money, we have to show the society what this financial resource is for. We have to tell the population what we do and the importance of maintaining support for research institutes.”
As well as hosting an enchanting permanent exhibition, every Saturday the museum open up their state-of-the-art telescopes for the public to study the night sky above, for free.
Museu do Índio (Botafogo)
The ‘Museu do Índio’ (Indigenous Museum) was founded by famed Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro in 1953. It is the only official institution in Brazil that is solely dedicated to the study and preservation of indigenous cultures.
The institution has a collection of almost 18,000 ethnographic pieces and a huge photographic and audiovisual archive of the indigenous cultures of Brazil.
Although the museum is currently closed for visitation, they still conduct research and hold external exhibitions, with the main museum due to reopen for visitors by the end of the year.
Museu da República (Catete)
The Museu da República (Museum of the Republic) located in the Palácio do Catete (Catete Palace) has also been the target of budget cuts, as reported by O Globo. It is the site of some of Brazil’s most historical moments, such as the country’s declaration of war on Germany, and of course the suicide of Getúlio Vargas, whose famous blood-stained pyjamas are still on view.
The museum also houses a collection of art and other objects from when it served as the Presidential Palace, and also contains a cinema and bookstore. Visitors are also free to wander the beautiful palace gardens.
Centro Nacional de Folclore e Cultura Popular (Glória)
The ‘Centro Nacional de Folclore e Cultura Popular’ (National Centre for Folklore and Popular Culture or CNFCP), is the sole government institution dedicated to the study, research and exhibition of folkloric and popular Brazilian culture.
Their permanent exhibition presents 1,400 objects that span subjects such as religion, festivities, art, rituals and much more. In reaction to the fire at Museu Nacional, they released a statement, saying “We continue to fight for cultural heritage, even in the face of adversities that historically attack sectors as fundamental to the country’s development as Culture, Science and Education.”
A piece of good news is that construction will finally continue on the long-unfinished ‘Museu da Imagem e do Som’ (Museum of Image and Sound) in Copacabana. Fernando Salerno, professor of Portuguese, comments, “It’s been under construction since before I moved to Rio.”
He adds, “It’s a shame because the space, location and architecture are great and the MIS in São Paulo has incredible exhibitions which could also be transferred here, if it were finished.” However, many of Rio’s other cultural and heritage continue to struggle on, possessing a priceless wealth of history while remaining tragically underfunded.
Correction: This article has been modified since originally published on Wednesday, September 5th, to clarify that the Museu do Índio (Botafogo) isn’t currently open for visitation, but is due to reopen by the end of the year.