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National Museum of Natural History at Quinta da Boa Vista

The National Museum of Natural History is situated on the grounds of Quinta da Boa Vista Gardens, in São Cristóvão district, in a neoclassical palace, which was the former abode of the Kings of the Portuguese Empire and Brazil when it was then called Imperial Palace of St. Kitts district (São Cristovão). It houses an historical and scientific natural history collection from all around the world.

A Bit of History

National Museum of Natural History | Former Imperial PalaceWhen João VI (John VI) of Portugal came to Brazil in 1808, he settled first in the Royal Palace at Square 15 where previously lived the Viceroys and Governors of Colonial Brazil.

Later on a wealthy Portuguese Merchant "donated" to the King a house-palace built by him in 1803 on a hill, that due to its location gave a beautiful view of Guanabara Bay, hence the name "Quinta da Boa Vista" which means "Farm with a beatiful view".

João VI, Pedro I and Pedro II inhabited the site. However the Palace only take the current form in neoclassical style after some additions and changes.

Many architectural changes were made under the charge of several architects along the years. Even a third floor addition was built. Click to read more and see a sequence of photos and paintings on the Imperial Palace of São Cristovão and its transformations through the time.

Besides this palace, the Royal Family had a summer palace located in Petrópolis City, in the highlands or mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro State. The Summer Imperial Palace of Petropolis is also museum open to visitors.

Unlike the Petropolis Palace, which is an Imperial Museum, the Palace of Quinta da Boa Vista nowdays houses the National Museum of Natural History and has a rich collection of Brazil natural history and about the World natural history.

In terms of architecture, both museuns differ in that the Petropolis Palace is better conserved in terms of interior and exterior architecture. The Petropolis Palace is more well finished, and It was the favorite residence of Pedro II although it is smaller and looks less grandiose.

As far as we can visit the Palace located in Quinta da Boa Vista Gardens and Park, at São Cristovão, there is no reference to the royal family furniture. It is said that after the Proclamation of the Republic, Peter II was allowed to carry with him the furniture, when he left the country for exile in Europe, and settled in Portugal where his relatives would live.

The Museum´s Collection

The museum located in the palace has a historical and scientific natural history collection, containing fossils from many parts of the world, huge dinosaur skeletons, costumes of Indians from all over the world, Egyptians mummies and coffins, equipment and weapons of early civilizations and primitive cultures, and various objects and references to native Brazilians tribe and Brazilians indians nations.

The collection is large and we visited the Museum in April 2008 and May 2009. The museum had received improvements and had been renewed. Some parts of the museun was still closed, and It seems that lots of restoration works was still going on.

Having the museun so many attractions, the focus of attention of every visitor depends on the area of interest.

Right in the entrance, there is a huge meteorite, found in the eighteenth century weighing over 5 tons.

There is a room dedicated to the scientist Berta Lutz who was also a suffragist and pioneer of the struggle for women's rights.

In another sector, you can see a primitive tape recorder, manufactured by the company of Thomas Edison and used by Roquette Pinto, who made several recordings of songs of brazilian Indian ceremonies. Roquette Pinto was a brazilian phisician, anthropologist, professor, essayist and a pioneer of radio broadcasting in Brazil.

The museum also has a huge collection of stuffed animals from both Brazilian fauna and other countries fauna, including birds, apes, tiger, elephant, wolf, tapir, wild boar etc.

Certainly all those animals, and all objects and items in the museum have been studied by researchers. All the objects continue to be a collection available for scientific research and knowledge.

However for those who want to see live animals, the Rio de Janeiro Zoo is next to the Museum, few meter aways. The Rio Zoo is also located in Quinta da Boa Vista park.

Although you have free access to Quinta da Boa Vista Park and Gardens, to visit the Museum it is necessary to buy an inexpensive ticket, affordable to anyone. To visit Rio Zoo there is a separate ticket, also inexpensive.

Dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History, in Rio de Janeiro CityDinosaurs - National Museum in the Quinta da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro City

Dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History, in Rio de Janeiro City

Origins, History and Curiosities About the Museum

The Museum is also called the National Museum of UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and also known as Museum of Quinta da Boa Vista.

Originally the National Museum was created by the King João VI in 1818, 10 years after his arrival in Brazil. It was then called the Royal Museum.

However, before the criation of the Royal Museum, there existed the first Brazilian Museum of Natural History, that was founded by the Viceroy Luis de Vasconcelos before the arrival of the King João VI. The first Museum was known as "House of Birds" for having stuffed birds. When the Royal Museum was completed, the birds collection were then transferred to the Royal Museum.

The first headquarters of the Royal Museum, created by the King João VI, was located in Campo de Santana área, in Rio de Janeiro downtown.

Only after the proclamation of the Republic, the Museum was changed its site to the Palace of Quinta da Boa Vista.

The building where was the Royal Museum (now National Museum of Natural History) was subsequently occupied by the National Archives.

Recorder machine by Thomas Edison at Museum of Quinta da Boa VistaIndian artifacts and costumes at the National Museum of Natural History in Rio de Janeiro City

Recorder machine by Thomas Edison at National Museum of Quinta da Boa Vista. On the right picture, indian artifacts and costumes at the National Museum of Natural History in Rio de Janeiro City.

Scientific Research and Development

The creation of the Royal Museum turned to stimulate the scientific know-how in Brazil. And it remains also a research institution, with several laboratories and post-graduated courses.

The material on display at the Museum are or were objects of research and study by various departments such as geology, anthropology, paleontology, zoology and botanical. The Museum was incorporated into the University of Brazil in 1946, which is currently called UFRJ. (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

Inside Quinta da Boa Vista area, there is also The National Museum Library Building and an restricted area that belong to the Department of Botany and is called Botanical Garden of the National Museum containing ancient trees, many species of classified and listed plants and ecological bed plants. Within the area of the Botanical Garden, there are also installed laboratories of botany and zoology, small buildings of historical value and the building that houses the National Museum Library.

However, this area seems to be open for regular visitation, at least in the weekend we visited Quinta da Boa Vista Park in 2009. There may be specific days or schedule for visitation.

Note: The Rio the Janeiro Botanical Garden is in another part of the city and is always open to the public.

National Museum of Natural History | Former Imperial Palace

Directions to site | How to get there

Both the Museum and the Rio de Janeiro Zoo are in the Quinta da Boa Vista area, and to reach the place you can use the subway and get off at São Cristovão station. One of the park entrance gates lies just outside the station. I just have to cross the street.

Relatede Links:
Visit the official museum website | http://www.museunacional.ufrj.br/index.htm