The history of the Museu Nacional starts in 1779, when the Queen of Portugal, Da Maria I, ordered the building of the Casa de História Natural (Natural History Cabinet). At that time, this institution housed a collection of stuffed animals and was called by the people as the "Casa dos Pássaros" ("House of the Birds"). This collection became the core of the Museu Real, created by D. João VI (King of Portugal) in June 6th, 1818, to which a precious mineral and natural history collection was added. The model of this museum was taken from the great natural history institutions of that time, particularly the Musée National d`Historie Naturelle of Paris in France.
In 1824, two years after the Brazilian independence from Portugal, the Museu Real was called Museu Imperial e Nacional (Imperial and National Museum). The last change came one year after the proclamation of the republic in 1889 - when the museum received its present designation - Museu Nacional. In 1946, this institution was incorporated to the Universidade do Brasil, presently known as the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), within the Education Ministry, where it stays until the present day.
Not only the museum's designation has changed through time, but also its location. At the beginning the Museu Real was located in a building at the Campo de Sant'Ana and in 1892 it changed to its present location at the São Cristóvão palace at the Quinta da Boa Vista, former residence of the Brazilian Imperial Family since the time of D. João VI.
With more than 180 years, the Museu Nacional is the oldest scientific institution of South America. The permanent exhibit with over 9000 specimens has made the Museu Nacional also a tourist attraction. Since it is also a research and educational organization, the museum attracts visitors from students and scientists coming from all around world. Its collection is made of over 10 million items from several countries, distributed in different scientific collections (Paleontology, Petrography, Mineralogy, Meteorites, Zoology, Botany, Archaeology and Anthropology) that have made this institution one of the most important of the world, particularly in Latin America.
More information of the Museu Nacional can be obtained at the official website of the museum.
Photo credits: Museu Nacional/UFRJ