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The Museums of Madeira.

The Islands of Porto Santo and Madeira have a rich cultural heritage borne from the 500 years of colonisation, immigration, emigration, trade and tourism that it has enjoyed. From the creative and venturesome wealthy and noble families that first settled on the islands from the North of Portugal, to the sporadic pockets of immigrants from all parts of Europe such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and even as far afield as Russia or Poland, all left their mark on Madeira.Photo in the Fotografia Vicente Museum The Madeira Archipelago boasts a cultural and folklore tradition that may be quite enviable: the years of study and planning to the New World by Christopher Columbus on Porto Santo, to the ancient rhythms of Guanchos or African slaves in their dance and music, to the immense wealth amassed by sugar merchants who brought Madeira one of the finest collections of Flemish school sixteenth century art, to the remarkable production of the long lasting Madeira Wine. Madeira has found itself in an inconspicuous and inadvertent way a proper stepping stone and melting pot for the New World of the latter half of the second millennium. The Madeiran authorities have over the past few decades made an effort to remind the historical and nostalgia enthusiast or the public in general the important role and impact Madeira had in the eras gone by. Today, many of the best museums are private legacies, or interactive new museums with virtual reality or didactic functions.

As incongruous as it may seem, the Museums in Madeira help impress the visitor that Madeira acted as a reflection and sometimes as a portal or touchstone to events and trends that appeared in the rest of the world. Especially, the New World. It is not hard to guess that many of the most important sojourns in recent humankind history made its way past Madeira. Darwin, Napoleon, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, are some of the figures that spring to mind. Making a visit to any of the museums listed alongside or below helps enrich the understanding of the position of many persons or trends today, how they got there, or what influences led to those expansions of civilisation on the new continents of America and Africa, and so on.

The Whale Museum - The hunting and poaching of whales was a practice seen off the coastline of Madeira for many years. In 1981 the hunting of whales was banned in Madeira and an important species, the sperm whale, was given another chance to recover from possible extinction. [More Info]

The Museum of Electricity - Casa da Luz - One of the latest and most attractive museums to open in Madeira in recent times. The museum offers a nostalgic retrospective to the century old service offered by the Casa da Luz or "House of Electricity" - the electric utility company - in its 100 year sojourn to today, and its historical impact on the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo. [More Info]

Museum of Sacred Art - A fine and important museum in the very centre of Funchal. The museum houses several halls of significant fine art, sculpture and sacrilegious jewellery. Pride of place is the Flemish collection - a collection of sixteenth century wood or board painted sacred art works from Bruges and Antwerp. Imported during the wealth of sugar cane production on the island. The equally important gold-plated silver processional cross - a gift of King Manuel I of Portugal - is also on display. [More Info]

Municipal Museum and Aquarium - The municipal museum provides a zoological, geological, and biological archive service for species and minerals of the Archipelago of Madeira. The museum is housed in what used to be the former residence of the Counts of Carvalhal and has a small aquarium of live marine fauna and flora. A library and news archive is also resident in the Museum. [More Info]

The Madeira Wine Institute Museum - Housed in the former residence of Henry Veitch, an important British consul of the first half of the nineteenth century, the recently established Madeira Wine Institute took it upon themselves to provide a rich retrospective on the history and methods of Madeira wine and its production. A live cooperage is also featured. [More Info]

Quinta das Cruzes Museum - A fine museum holding the private collections of two prestigious collectors of Madeiran furniture, porcelain, silverware, fine art, and many other items of historical and antique interest. Excellent examples of Manueline style design and architecture (windows of old lordly homes) abound in the landscaped gardens. The museum is housed in the former residence of the discoverer and first governor of the Capitania Funchal, Madeira: Gonçalves Zarco. [More Info]

Dr. Frederico de Freitas Museum - The museum is the personal collection of a well known solicitor, Dr. Frederico de Freitas, and is composed of an expansive collection of unique Portuguese, Iberian, Persian, and Moorish style tiles, amongst a horde of many other precious items. The beautiful nineteenth century establishment houses equally impressive paintings, sculptures, ceramics, furniture, old prints, many other antiques, and some interesting metalwork from both Africa and the Far East. An unusual display of 2000 different vases, mugs and jars are also on display. [More Info]

Photographia Vicentes Museum - This museum is the oldest of its kind of any museum or studio in the Iberian Peninsula. It was built by a professional photographer to a collection of up to 600 000 prints and approximately 300 00 negatives and photographic glass plates. This veritable collection of valuable historic material and social studies is a unique and resourceful monument to the history of Madeira. [More Info]

Vinhos Barbeito - Christopher Columbus Library Museum - The legacy of Mario Barbeito Vasconceles. Founder of the Vinhos Barbeito (Madeira) Wine Company.
The library of books he left behind dating back to even as far as the 16th century: disposing to the Christopher Columbus enthusiast or to the Madeiran historian a rich heritage of information. The museum offers access to the very utensils and instruments used in the discoveries of the new world. Rare coins and other items of antiquity - including rare maps and charts - are on display. [More Info]

Museum of Contemporary Art - One of Madeira's most recent museums now housed in one of Madeira's oldest buildings - the Forte São Tiago or Fort Saint James. In the Old Zone - Zona Velha - of Funchal. Apart from housing a permanent exhibition of contemporary Portuguese artists the museum is also home to many itinerant exhibitions. Including the recent Europe wide exhibition of Mediaeval and modern torture instruments. [More Info]

The Madeiran Institute for Embroidery, Tapestry, and Handicrafts Museum - The museum near the centre of Funchal exhibiting some of the finest embroidery made during the latter part of the 19th and through most of the 20th centuries. A very good and interesting pedagogical area is also open to embroidery enthusiasts who want learn a few tips and methods on stitching techniques. [More Info]

The Museum of Natural History - One of the youngest museums of Madeira - this valuable resource holds a genetically diverse and biologically resourceful collection of multiple different species of insects, sea creatures and many other endemic fauna and flora specimens of the Madeiran Archipelago. The museum is housed in the government controlled botanical gardens of Funchal. [More Info]

Funchal - City of Sugar Museum - The City of Sugar Museum (Núcleo Museológico A Cidade do Açucar) serves as a retrospective on the history of Funchal guided along the central theme of sugar - the industry that helped shape the early vestiges of Funchal, and Madeira. Interesting items include genuine artefacts used in the measuring of sugar - scales, pots, and weights. A look at early maps of Funchal help visualise the early history of Funchal. [More Info]

São Francisco Wine Cellars Museum - The second of two wine museums on Madeira. Housed inside the old São Francisco monastery and part of one of the oldest medieval streets of Funchal. The expulsion of the religious orders in 1834 led to the destruction of the site and transformation into a wine cellar. [More Info]

Christopher Columbus Museum - A lesser known fact but no less distinguishing for Porto Santo is that Christopher Columbus lived, married and had his son Diogo born on Porto Santo. His involvement in the sugar trade of Madeira led him to discover remnants of materials non-European on the shores of the small island. Hence, his belief in the Americas. The house which houses the museum is believed to be the former residence of the discoverer. [More Info]

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