The Museum of Transport and Communications
A Brief Account on its History and Development
The Museum of Transport and Communications was born out of a governmental deliberation issued by the council of ministers in 1987. This document clearly stated that a Museum of Transports and Communications ought to be installed in the city of Oporto with the purpose of preserving and safeguarding a vast heritage in the field of transport and communications.
In order to do so, on the 21st February 1992 a private non-profit making Association was founded with the aim of:
- Creating and maintaining a Museum of Transport and Communications with collections and artefacts of its own and/or with collections and artefacts yield in deposit;
- Preserving infra-structures of recognised historic interest to the themes of transport and communications;
- Creating and maintaining a documentation centre dedicated to transport and communications;
- Developing, by all means, the interest of the general public on issues pertaining to the problematic of transport and communications.
At the time of its foundation the Association for the Museum of Transports and Communications comprised 77 members, of which 52 were individuals and 25 were institutional members organised into a board of administrators, a general assembly, a general council and a financial council. The institution is funded by private sponsors, the renting of spaces, namely those belonging to the congress and exhibitions centre (since 1998) and European Community funds and grants.
In order to proceed with its aims one of the first task the association for the Museum of Transports and Communications set up to accomplish was the fully renovate the New Customs House building which was in urgent need of repair.
This task was commissioned to Oporto’s architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. The renovation works started in 1993 and continued to this day.
As the large rooms of the New Customs House building were fully renovated and equipped to be transformed into exhibition spaces a vast program of temporary exhibitions and other cultural events was launched with the aim of captivating visitors. Many of this events provided the Association with much needed funds to pursue its program and mission, by renting the spaces which, by its size and the quality of its renovation, were unique in the city of Oporto. At the same time The Association was to organise and launch its first application for Community funds. Under this project a feasibility study on the future Museum was produced by a large team of Portuguese and international museum consultants with the aim of defining the museological and museographic program for the future Museum of Transports and Communications.
This program began to be put into practice in 1995. Indeed, in the same year a program of temporary exhibitions organised by the Museum was launched with the aim of captivating and developing the public’s interest on the issues and themes pertaining to the history and socio-economic impact of transport and communications in Portugal.
The Association’s services were organised to accompany the events, especially those pertaining to the educational and animation services.
Finally in 2000 with the Associations for the Museum of Transports and Communications organised into the Museum of Transports and Communications and the Congress and Exhibitions Centre, the Museum was to open its doors to the public stating its first permanent exhibition. Occupying 2000 square meters by the west wing of the New Customs House building of Oporto, this exhibition is dedicated to the automobile phenomenon and its impact on society.
In February 2002 another permanent exhibition space dedicated to the theme of communications was opened. This exhibition aims to explore issues pertaining to the complexities of communicating through different media and over different times.
The museological program envisaged for the museum comprises also the implementation of a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history and memories of the New Custom House building which is due to open in 2004. Finally another major project requires the construction of a building adjacent to the one where the Museum is installed to house large objects pertaining to the history of Portuguese railways.