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Recife Museums

January 27, 2009

The following is a list of museum and public buildings of interest in Recife. The most important are indicated by the symbol gold star before the name. The problem for foreign tourists is that most of these museums, even the most important ones, have little, or no, information in English. For instance, the Museum of the Man of the Northeast, one of the most important in the city, has no exhibits with English descriptions, no English speaking guides and not a single leaflet or map of the exhibits in English, even after a restoration and modernization project that took years. It is therefore necessary to visit most museums with a Portuguese speaking friend, or a guide that knows the museum.

The Museum of Pernambuco State (Museu do Estado de Pernambuco) Av. Rui Barbosa 960, Graças. (81) 3427-9322. tue-fri 9am-5pm; sat&sun 2-5pm. Housed in a 19th century mansion in Recife, capital of Pernambuco state, the Museu do Estado de Pernambuco (MEPE) dates back to 1929.  The museum has over 12,000 art pieces including paintings, decorative arts, furniture and jewelry from the Colonial period, the Dutch invasion (1630) and the 20th and 21st century.  Periodically, the museum hosts the Salão de Arte Contemporânea de Pernambuco, when emerging artists are selected to represent the new run of local professionals who will help to maintain and shape the profile of the local art scene. MAP

sinagoga4Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue (Kahal Zur Israel) Rua do Bom Jesus 197, Recife Antigo. (81) 3224-2128. Tue-Fri 9am-4.30pm; Sun 3-6.30pm. R$4. This reconstructed synagogue is situated on the foundations of the original Kahal Zur Israel synagogue (1640’s), the oldest synagogue in the Americas. It was established when Recife was ruled by religiously tolerant Holland. With the end of Dutch rule in 1654, many of Recife’s Jews fled to the interior of the state or set sail with the Dutch to New Amsterdam (later New York), and the synagogue was confiscated and sold. Over the centuries, evidence of the temple all but disappeared. In the late 1990s, traces of the old synagogue were discovered in the form of a mikve, or ritual bath. The reconstructed building tells the history of Jews in Recife. On the ground floor you can see the remains of the 17th-century temple, and the second floor houses the actual synagogue. The third floor has a are showing a documentary (with English subtitles) on the history of the Jews in Recife and the rebuilding of the synagogue. The museum offers a desriptive leaflet in other languages, including English, and some of the exhibits have bi-lingual discriptions.  There are also student guides, some of whom speak English.   MAP

open-air-museum1Open Air Museum (Museu a Céu Aberto) Between Rua Alfredo Lisboa and Rua Barão Rodrigues Mende, Recife Antigo. This site or a recent archaeological dig is a short walk from Kahal Zur Israel. There is not a great deal to see, but the bi-lingual information boards close to the site give you some information on the history of the area. MAP (just north of the indicated point A)

malakof-torre1Malakoff Tower (Torre Malakoff) Praça do Arsenal, Recife Antigo (81) 3424 8704. Tue-Sun 3-8pm. The tower was built in 1855 to house an astronomic observatory. The name pays tribute to the Russian resistance at the Malakoff Tower fortress (Sevastopol) during the 1853-56 Crimean War. Today, the tower is hosts a program of cultural events. The roof is a vantage point for some good panoramic photos. Entrance is free of charge. MAP (just north of the indicated point A)

forte-do-brumForte do Brum (Military Museum) Praça Comunidade Luso Brasileira, Recife Antigo. (81)3224 4620. Tue-Fri 9am-4.30pm; Sat & Sun 2-5pm. The original fort was built by Portuguese colonizers in 1629  and later taken over by the Dutch, who re-built it in honor of Johan de Bruyne, who named it Forte de Bruyne. The return of the Portuguese in Recife saw the name change again to Forte de Sao Joao Batista do Brum. Today it houses the military museum. It has a large collection of weapons and munition dating from the time of the Dutch invasion. Excavations in 1985 uncovered many remainders of the fort’s first construction. MAP

governors-palace1The Princesses’ Field Palace (Palácio do Campo Das Princesas) Praça da Republica (81) 31812281. Thur & Fri 9-11am & 2-4pm; Sun 10-12am & 2-4pm. This palace is now home to the Governor of the state of Pernambuco, of which Recife is the capital city. Its magnificent rooms and gardens are definitely worth an visit during the very limited hours that visits are possible. A leaflet is available in English, and English speaking guides are available by arrangement. MAP

rbrennandInstituto Ricardo Brennand Alameda Antônio Brennand, Várzea. (81) 2121 0352. Tue-Sun 1-5pm. The Institute was created by Ricardo Brennand, an avid collector of art and antiques housed in a castle structure. The eclectic collection includes relics from 15th century Europe, from Colonial Brazil and from 19th century Brazil. The range of types of art is impressive: paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculptures,  stained glass windows, tapestries and a massive collection of books (about 20,000 volumes) focusing on the Dutch period in Brazil’s history.  Amongst the paintings are fine examples by Dutch artists. MAP

capela-dourada2Franciscan Museum of Sacred Art/Golden Chapel (Museu Franciscano de Arte Sacra/Capela Dourada) Rua do Imperador D. Pedro II, Santo Antônio. (81) 3224 0994. Mon-Fri 8-11.30am & 2-5pm; Sat 8-11.30am. The Franciscan Convent of Santo Antônio was built by the Franciscan Order Friars (1606-1613), the oldest Order in the parish of Santo Antônio. In 1630, it was abandoned to the Dutch who adapted it for military use. Until 1654 it was known as Ernesto Fortress. Then it was reconstructed in the baroque style (1710-1770). Inside is the Gold Chapel inaugurated in 1697. MAP

mamamMuseum of Modern Art (MAMAM) Rua da Aurora 265, Santo Antônio. (81) 3232 5399. Tue-Sun 1-7pm. Modern art housed in a far from modern space in the center of Recife. The museum has a permanent collection and hosts temporary exhibitions. It also has a study center. Past exhibitions have included the work of local artists and photographers, as well as international art events. MAP

brennandOficina Francisco Brenand Propriedade Santos Cosme e Damião, Várzea. (81) 3271 2466. Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. Francisco Brennand is without  a doubt one of Brazil´s most important artists. He his best known for his ceramics, but he is also a painter. His is from an Irish family of industrialists that produced ceramic tiles commercially on a large scale. The factory, which is still active, is also the home to the museum. The site also has a landscaped sculpture garden designed in association with Architect Brule Marx, and more recently, a gallery exhibiting the work of Brennand and others. Although quite a distance form the center of Recife, and hard to get to without a car, it is definitely worth making the effort. MAP

5-point-forte2Fort of Five Points (Forte das Cinco Pontas)  Sâo José (81) 3232 2812. Tue-Fri 9am-5m; Sat & Sun 1-5pm. The fort with five bastions was built in 1630 by the Dutch to protect their growing commercial interests in the port, and its supplies of drinking water. Today it houses the City of Recife Museum which holds art and artifacts that tell the story of the evolution of the city, its history and its culture. MAP

mac-olindaMuseum of Contemporary Art (Museu de Arte Contemporânea) Rua 13 de Maior 157, Olinda. (81) 3429 2587. Mon 2-5pm; Tue-Sun 9am-5pm. The museum is housed in an building that dates back to 1722. Originally it served as a religious prison for those accused, under ecclesiastic jurisdiction, of conspiracy against the Catholic church. The first floor was reserved for blacks, crioles and witches. The external stairs lead to a second floor where whites were held. The building has had National Heritage status since 1966. The galleries house a permanent collection and the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions. MAP

decsign-centerRecife Center of Design (Centro de Design do Recife) Pátio de São Pedro, Casa 10, São José. (81) 3232 2432. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. This new design center was inaugurated on the 5th of December 2008. It hosts temporary exhibitions and delivers design courses. MAP (The design center is in the same square as MAMAM on the map).

abolition-museumThe Abolition Museum (Museu da Aboliçáo) Rua Benfica 1150, Madalena. (81) 3228 3011. Mon-Fri 9-12am and 2-5pm. This recently opened museum traces the history of Afro-Brazilian culture in Brazil, and as its name suggests, deals with the issue of slavery and its abolition. MAP

museumurilolagrecaMuseum Murillo La Greca Rua Leonardo Bezerra Cavalcanti 266, Parnamirim. (81) 3232 4276. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. The museum is home to permanent and temporary exhibitions related to the work of artist Murillo La Greca. The house in which the museum is located was a gift, but is unfortunately in a location that is not easy to get to without a car, and should not be accessed on foot, as there is a small shantytown/favela nearby. MAP

Museum of Popular Art (Museu de Arte Popular) Pátio de São Pedro, Casa 45, São José, (81) 3232 2845. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.  This new museum has many exhibits of popular art. Most are sculptures of subjects from regional folklore, myths and legends. The represent the work of many artists, known and unknown, from the state of Pernambuco. MAP

museu-do-homem-do-nordeste Museum of the Man of the Northeast (Museu do Homem do Nordeste) Av. 17 de Augusto 2187, Casa Forte. (81) 3073 6340. Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat & Sun 1-5pmR$4. After being closed for three years for restoration, this important museum has finally re-opened. It houses a large selection of art and artifacts associated with the cultural evolution of the people of the northeast of Brazil, the Nordestino. MAP

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