Regular readers know that my Portuguese for Foreigners class at the local Federal University includes a number of classes out in the community. We’ve gone mostly to museums, but a couple weeks ago we got a not-so-behind-the-scenes tour of the recently restored (actually many years ago, but it still looks great) National Library in Rio.
Given the mature shade trees along the street in front of the building, I couldn’t get a full-on photo of the beautiful historic building built between 1905 – 1910. But you can piece these together in your head.
Originally conceived in 1810 by the King of Portugal, Dom José I, the collection was instantly the largest in South America. With a current collection of over 9 million items the National Library remains the largest in South America and ranks as the eighth largest library in the world.
There is an excellent article describing the history, collection and wealth of valuable rare items contained at the library here. Great summary. Check it out.
Our tour was basically the garden-variety public tour of the building. I could only take photos of the exterior and the main lobby. Large reading and research rooms, as well as the spectacular rare collections hall were off limits to cameras (why, exactly? I have no idea.)
I am forever impressed by the old-world grandeur and meticulous craftsmanship of national treasures like the National Library, the Municipal Theater (photo of restoration in progress included here) and places like the old palace in Petropolis.