Luz Station, headquarters of the Portuguese Language Museum. Photo: Joca Duarte / Publicity
Light Station. Photo: Joca Duarte / Publicity

TFully ready to be reopened after six years of renovations, the Portuguese Language Museum (MLP) has already started to warm up its engines in the expectation of finally being able to open its doors, which should take place at the end of July or as soon as the pandemic allows. In addition to the physical rebuilding, which rebuilt the structure destroyed by a fire in 2015, the institution took the opportunity to conceptually reorganize itself and update content and communication strategies with the public. In general, the concept of the project remains the same, based on an anthropological, historical and social perspective of the language, as it was stitched together almost 20 years ago. 

As it is basically a virtual collection, the archives were not destroyed by fire and it was possible to reconstruct a large part of the original exhibition. The possibility – and necessity – of redoing the exhibition from scratch brought, however, the opportunity to improve the permanent exhibition and update important aspects, incorporating transformations through which the language passed in the period and proposing a reflection on contemporary debates related to identity issues, which has intensely mobilized the debate in recent years. 

At the Portuguese Language Museum: The installations "Palavras Cruzadas", in the foreground, and "The Portuguese of Brazil", in the background. Photo: Joca Duarte / Publicity.
The installations “Palavras Cruzadas”, in the foreground, and “O Português do Brasil”, in the background. Photo: Joca Duarte / Publicity.

A institution It also opened space for a more intense dialogue with various fields of culture, in addition to its intimate relationship with literature, incorporating new ways of thinking about language also from everyday elements and other forms of expression, such as the visual arts. The result of this new approach is the museum's first temporary exhibition, now accessible to small groups of visitors, entitled Loose Tongue (read here). “Since then, we wanted to bring objects crossed by the language”, explains the special curator of the institution, Isa Grinspum Ferraz. After all, as the Mozambican writer Mia Couto says, in a live organized by the institution, “the Portuguese language is not works in the abstract.

Among the novelties brought by the museum in this new guise are also the increase in the timeline, which runs through the history of the Portuguese language from Lazio, in ancient Rome, to the present day, with the problematization of fundamental moments of this trajectory, such as the 1500 – in which testimonies from indigenous leaders such as Davi Kopenawa and Ailton krenak questioning the idea of ​​discovery and explaining the process of invasion of already inhabited lands. In almost the opposite direction, the installation We of the Portuguese Language (“we” both in terms of intertwining and as a pronoun that indicates a collectivity) highlights the importance of Portuguese as a language of liberation in African countries, allowing a confluence of different peoples and dialects in a common project, experienced in countries such as Mozambique, Angola and Cape Verde. Finally, among the novelties, Isa Grinspum highlights the new installation talk, curated by Marcelino Freire and Roberta Estrela D'Alva, which creates a forest of canvases in which it is possible to take a walk, watching a plot of testimonies, iconic speeches, accents and Portuguese tribes. 

Language Museum
Exhibition area of ​​the Portuguese Language Museum. Photo: Government of the State of São Paulo

When it opened in 2006, the massive use of virtual technology was one of the strong marks of MLP. Today, with a greater familiarity of people with this type of resource and the improvement of equipment, its protagonism seems more diluted. “Technology came to the service, to tell a story. As the language is impalpable, images and sounds are very useful. We don't seek interactivity for interactivity's sake”, points out the curator. According to her, what matters is to stimulate the visitor's interest as much as possible, making him leave the museum with more questions than he entered. 

Faced with the challenges imposed by the pandemic – which has been postponing its reopening and imposes the need to find new ways of contacting potential visitors – the museum has also been taking the opportunity to develop new forms of virtual interaction with the public. He took advantage of the international day of the Portuguese language to show a little of his new face, carrying out a series of conversations and online presentations, which have already been seen by more than 15 thousand spectators, with figures of great importance in the thinking of the role of language, such as Mia Couto, José Eduardo Agualusa and José Miguel Wisnik. It also launched cycles of virtual lectures and intends to establish cycles of debates, teacher training, film shows, soirees, and other activities capable of spreading this production beyond the physical space. 

Going abroad is, in fact, one of the mottos of the Portuguese Language Museum, whether in terms of content (in which digital communication can contribute a lot) or in spatial terms, connecting more intensely with the surroundings of its headquarters in Luz Station, where hundreds of thousands of people pass through every day. 


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