Historical museum celebrating Brazil’s independence reopens for the country’s bicentenary

The Museu Paulista of the University of São Paulo, known as Museu do Ipiranga (Ipiranga Museum) – reopens September 7 after a $45 million renovation and nearly ten-year closure.

The museum, located on the Ipiranga stream southeast of São Paulo, opened on September 7, 1895, and was envisioned as a monument to the site where Brazil’s independence was declared in 1822. It holds an extensive collection more than 450,000 objects and works of art. linked to the Brazilian imperial era.

The renovation consists of creating more exhibition space – from 12 to 49 galleries – and adding audio-visual components, immersive rooms, interactive spaces and the restoration of the Versailles-inspired garden in front of the museum.

Independência ou Morte (Independence or Death) (1888) by Pedro Américo de Figueiredo and Melo. Photo: Helio Nobre. Courtesy of Ipiranga Museum.

During the nine years of closure, more than 3,000 objects from the collection were also preserved, such as the work Independência ou Morte (Independence or Death) (1888) by Pedro Américo de Figueiredo e Melo – a cornerstone of the collection, which depicts the moment when the political break with Portugal was announced. A complex model of São Paulo made in 1922 by Henrique Bakkenist from 19th century cartographic maps has also been restored.

Model of São Paulo by Henrique Bakkenist in 1841 at the Museu Paulista Photo by Mike Peel, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum reopens with 11 permanent exhibits and one rotating exhibit, covering more than 3,000 objects, most dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, but also including pieces from the colonial era.

Curators say an important aspect of the curatorial programming for the bicentennial inauguration is its approach to works that honor controversial figures and situations, such as statues of brutal pioneers and paintings celebrating the submission of indigenous peoples.

“We know that the history of Brazil is made up of clashes, clashes, struggles and disputes,” says art historian and curator Paulo César Garcez Marins. “But at the Ipiranga museum, all the images always represented pacified bodies; there are no fights here.

An interactive screen near the museum entrance asks: “Can pioneers be considered heroes?” A few screens later, one conclusion is obvious: “The museum does not agree with this heroic image of the flags, which simplifies a past which was also marked by violence and slavery.

Objects in the collection should be “treated as historical documents,” says Denise Peixoto, one of the museum’s educators. “They show us a way of thinking of certain social groups at a certain period of our history. The objective is to give the visitor the necessary elements so that he can critically apprehend these creations.

The entrance to the museum represents moments and so-called heroes of Brazilian history that have been challenged in recent years. Photo: Heloisa Bortz. Courtesy of Ipiranga Museum.

The updated curatorial approach aims to resonate with future visitors by telling a fuller story of colonialism in the country. The museum expects the number of visitors to be between 900,000 and 1 million per year.

“The building was not born as a museum but as a monument to independence,” said Amâncio Jorge de Oliveira, vice president of the museum. The arts journal. “Now, in the bicentenary of Brazilian independence, we can discuss our identity and our history through the building and the exhibits.”

  • Paulista MuseumSão Paulo, Brazil, reopens on September 7.

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