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Emílio Goeldi Pará Museum

Created in 1866, from the installation of the Philomathic Association, the original nucleus of the museum, its main purpose was the study of Amazonian nature: flora, fauna, geology, geography and matters related to the history of Pará and Amazonas.

Emílio Goeldi Pará Museum

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Last update: 27/03/2020

By: Albino Oliveira - Museologist at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation

The ‘Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi’ is located in the city of Belém, Pará. Connected to the Ministry of Science and Technology, its mission is to produce and spread knowledge and archives related to the natural and socio-cultural systems of the Amazônia.

Created in 1866, from the installation of the Philomathic Association, the original nucleus of the museum, its main purpose was the study of Amazonian nature: flora, fauna, geology, geography and matters related to the history of Pará and Amazonas.

The museum passed through difficulties for over two decades, despite the clear need for a museum in the city and the fact that the second half of the 20th century saw an economic dawn due to rubber exportation, consequently leading to the expansion of cultural movements,.

It was only in 1894, with the support of the new Republican Government and under the direction of the Swiss zoologist Emílio Goeldi that the Museu Paraense became dynamic, receiving an infrastructure consistent with the norms adopted by scientific museums around the world. The Zoology, Botanic, Ethnology, Geology sections were installed, and a Library specialising in matters of Natural and Anthropological Sciences as well as Amazon subjects in general, besides the creation of a Botanic and Zoological Garden.

In important factor in the museum’s history was its contribution, between 1895 and 1899, in matters related to the litigation between Brazil and France over the dominion of the nowadays State of Amapá. The results obtained through surveys carried out by the museum, plus the effective participation of Emílio Goeldi, strengthened the defence of Brazilian interest so that Amapá was incorporated into the territory of Pará in 1900.

For the relevant services given by Emílio Goeldi to Pará and Brazil, by decree in December 1900, the Museu Paraense was renamed to Museu Goeldi. Finally in 1931, also by decree, it received its current name: Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi.

The crises caused by the First World War and the economic decline of rubber extraction caused the museum to be almost inactive from 1919 to 1930, when Carlos Estevão from Pernambuco was named as its director. An admirer of the region and well-versed in social, indigenous, ecological and archaeological matters, his administration opened new perspectives in the field of applied research.

During the management of Carlos Estevão, which ended in 1945, the Botanical Zoological Garden was enlarged, making it considered to be the largest and the most well-equipped in Brazil. For the first time in the world, many species from the Amazon were raised in captivity.

The following year, after the end of the 2nd World War, in 1946, the museum went through a period of  budget contention which caused it, once again, to enter a period of decline that lasted nearly a decade.

The changes in the scientific areas undertaken by the Government in the 1950s – the creation of the National Council for Research (CNPq) and the National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA) – helped to restore the museum, which then became administered by the federal government. Subordinate to the INPA, scientific research was reinstated and the museum returned to being an important promoter of knowledge on the Amazon region.

In 1983, the museum became an autonomous unit of the CNPq and a new administrative structure was implemented because of the broadening of its activities: information and documentation services, museology, education and scientific communication.

The current configuration of the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, established in 2000, promotes greater agility in its activities, transforming it into an important go-between in the scope of public policy for the Amazon.

Its installations are divided into three units:

1) Botanical Zoological Garden – The oldest unit, located in the urban centre of Belém, where the Directory, Administration and Museology Coordinations, the Social Communication advisory and the Museum Publisher can be found.

2) Research Campus – With 12 hectares, where the Botanic, Zoology, Human Sciences, Earth Sciences and Ecology, Information and Documentation, and Planning Coordinations function, as well as the institutional laboratories.

3) Ferreira Penna Scientific Station – Inaugurated in 1993, with 33,000 hectares of the Caxiuanã National Forest and where the research and action programmes for communitarian development are carried out.

Recife, 24 March 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.

sources consulted

O MUSEU Paraense Emílio Goeldi. São Paulo: Banco Safra, 1986.

MUSEU Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 4 mar. 2010.

how to quote this text

Source: OLIVEIRA, Albino. Emílio Goeldi Pará Museum. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.