The ethnographic collections within the museum can be categorized into two distinct nuclei, each with its own unique history and significance. The first nucleus comprises collections assembled by the National Museum of Ethnology since its inception in 1962. These collections, totaling 42,000 pieces, are representative of 80 countries across five continents, with a particular emphasis on African, Asian, and Amerindian cultures. They also encompass the rich tapestry of traditional Portuguese culture. One of the remarkable aspects of these collections is the extensive documentation accompanying them, obtained through field research. The museum's archives, including photographs, films, audio recordings, and ethnographic drawings, serve as vital resources that complement the tangible artifacts and provide invaluable context for their interpretation.

The second nucleus of ethnographic collections stems from the Popular Art Museum (Museu de Arte Popular), which contributed 11,600 pieces to the National Museum of Ethnology. These items were primarily acquired during propaganda exhibitions held by the Estado Novo regime in the 1930s and 1940s. While distinct from the collections amassed by the National Museum of Ethnology, they provide unique insights into the cultural milieu of the time. However, due to the nature of their acquisition, the level of information regarding their origin and context may vary.

In 2007, the collections from the Popular Art Museum found their new home within the National Museum of Ethnology, resulting in the merger of the two institutions in 2012. This union created a singular museological unit, effectively integrating the diverse heritage represented by both museums. The consolidation of these collections enables visitors to explore the multifaceted nature of Portuguese cultural traditions and offers a broader perspective on global ethnographic diversity. Recommends

Beyond its remarkable collection, Museu Nacional de Etnologia is also home to a prestigious library. This library houses an extensive range of documents and publications in the fields of ethnology and anthropology. Scholars, researchers, and enthusiasts have the opportunity to access a wealth of knowledge and delve deeper into the various aspects of cultural studies. The library serves as a vital resource center, supporting academic research and contributing to the dissemination of knowledge in the field of ethnographic studies.

The National Museum of Ethnology stands as a testament to the remarkable cultural tapestry woven by diverse communities around the world. Its mission extends beyond preservation and display; it actively engages in research, education, and public outreach programs to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage. Through exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and other events, the museum provides a platform for dialogue, fostering cultural exchange and cross-cultural understanding.

As visitors explore the halls of the National Museum of Ethnology, they embark on a journey through time and space, encountering artifacts, traditions, and beliefs that have shaped human societies. From intricately woven textiles to ceremonial masks, musical instruments to traditional tools, the museum offers a window into the vibrant tapestry of human creativity and ingenuity.

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