Accepted Paper:

Unknowing a museum: memories and proposals for Lisbon's Folk Art Museum  


Alexandre Oliveira (ISCTE- Lisbon University Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes to analyse the processes related with the evolution of Lisbon's Folk Art Museum. Initially a project of right-wing nationalistic indoctrination it became the subject of a current public discussion were its own original purpose is now being considered as cultural heritage.

Paper long abstract:

Created in the late 1940's the Folk Art Museum in Lisbon (Museu de Arte Popular, MAP) was the final work of Salazar's chief of propaganda António Ferro. Its original goal was to make a presentation of Portuguese folk arts combining ethnographic objects with modernistic murals and architectural interpretations of rural and folk themes.

Presented originally as a "showcase of national good taste" and as a "fountain of inspiration to the modern artists" it quickly fell out of favour by the authorities. Under budget and without technical facilities, the museum survived until 1999 when the collapse of a roof led to an extensive renovation that has yet to be finished. In 2006 the Ministry of Culture announced the museum's dissolution and the creation of a new one dedicated to the Portuguese language in the same building. This led to a public outcry and the creation of an informal "Friends of MAP" lobbing group. Throughout the media, art historians, entrepreneurs, contemporary artists, architects and anthropologists, each claimed the museum as its own heritage, presenting new ideas for a renovated and ideologically clean MAP, sometimes even mutually exclusive ones.

However it was not clear if the message reached the general public, beyond the academic community the MAP was simply regarded as an historical ethnographic museum without a clear ideological connection. This was made clear in 2009 when influenced by some friends of MAP the new Minister declared the museum future reestablishment "as it was and for what it was created".

Panel P312
Making heritage, making knowledge