On 6 June 1818 Jõao VI, the Portuguese monarch who had fled the Napoleonian armies in 1808, decreed the creation of a Royal Museum at his Court in Rio de Janeiro. The institution was to submit to the gaze of the natural sciences the `thousands of objects worthy of observation and study´ enclosed by the abundant nature of this tropical kingdom, which had to be exploited `to the benefit of commerce, industry, and the arts´. The museum, then, was to pursue a double task, one which, with only slight variations, would occupy it for the rest of the century: if, on the one hand, the natural sciences were to catalogue and classify the ingredients and resources of Brazil and thus ensure efficient agricultural, or mining, exploitation of the lands King João from his very arrival had begun to wrest from the Indian communities with a vigour and violence unseen since the first days of colonization; on the other hand, `the arts´ had to refine nature's primary sources in the opposite direction, that is, to convert them not so much into material but into spiritual value. `Nature´, then, was to be shown as a repository of species and primary sources, a catalogue of objects awaiting commodification, but also as a primordial and irreducible layer of Brazilianness, as the very `soil´ of nationality. Objects were subject to sudden relocations from the realm of `scientific´ to that of `aesthetic´ nature because, essentially, they belonged to both: thus, in 1823, the Emperor Pedro I requested some of the stuffed toucans from the museum´s bird collection in order to have their feathers woven into his ceremonial cape, a royal insignia which was to become one of the most powerful symbols of Brazil's tropical monarchy. (Azevedo 1877: 224; Schwarcz 1998: 75-81)
Scientific research and collecting in Brazil, however, had already started in colonial times, in line with the new emphasis on the exact and natural sciences at Coimbra and Lisbon in late 18th century, in the course of the Pombaline reforms. Colonial outposts for the storage and selection of species to be sent to Portugal included, in addition to Rio´s Casa dos Pássaros (House of Birds), founded in 1784, a botanical garden at Belém created in 1796, or the Seminário de Olinda, founded in 1798, where the museum's first director, Frei José da Costa Azevedo, acted as professor of philosophy. (Lopes 1998: 37)
Yet the removal of the Court to Rio de Janeiro, a move unseen in colonial history, also implied a complete inversion of the geographies of knowledge these institutions relied upon, as suddenly there was no metropolis to send species and students to. In 1817 the Empress Leopoldina, a Habsburg princess, arrived in Brazil with an entire team of Austrian scientists including the naturalists Karl Friedrich von Martius and Johann Baptist von Spix who, in addition to the foundation of a botanical garden which was annexed to the museum in 1819, immediately embarked on a three-year journey to the interior, published as Reise nach Brasilien in Munich in 1827. The museum in the following years operated as a mediator between foreign expeditionaries such as the Austrian prince Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied, the Russian baron Langsdorff, or the Frenchman Auguste de Saint-Hilaire, securing official protection in exchange for a modest share of the species they collected. Particularly after the declaration of Independence in 1822 and the appointment as minister to the Court of José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, an illuminated reformer and himself a trained mineralogist, government and museum administrators insistently claimed for the local institution a fair part of the items collected - and thus cut loose an eternal quarrel between foreign travellers and Brazilian museologists which would reach its peak when the Empire fell apart. The museum's position in this implicit debate on territoriality was, however, weakened by the fact that well into the second half of the century, in order to acquire `complete´ and `classified´ collections, it had little choice but to buy them from foreign specialists, such as the Werner collection of minerals, purchased from the German geologist Pabst von Ohain in 1818 at 12.000 réis.
As we shall see, then, one of the prime concerns of the museum was to reverse the colonial hierarchy implicit in these transactions, and convert Brazil from an object into a subject of knowledge.
The task, of course, was hardly made any easier by the need to depict not only a nation but an empire - that is, not only to construct, by assembling a representative sample of vernacular materials, a differential and local identity, but, moreover, to position Brazil as a point of view onto the rest of the world. In its early years, by continuing to display not only Brazilian objects but also ones that represented the nature, population and history of Portugal's European, African and Asian possessions, the museum, despite its modest means, symbolically maintained the fiction of a Luso-Brazilian empire, still capable of competing with its European rivals. Along with other courtly institutions imported from Lisbon, such as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the Royal Treasury, the Mesa de Consciência e Ordem (or board of censors), the Academia de Guardas Marinas, the Escola de Cirurgia e Medicina, or the Imprensa Real, the museum was to give evidence of the survival of a stately body which in the Doldrums of the Atlantic had lost none of its capacity to manage and control a mass of archival knowledge and thus impose its power on a vast global space. After Independence, this singular focus would shift only slightly towards a more `national´ concern, for the museum remained, even then, a stage to theatricalize the European ancestral bonds and `imperial´ extension of Brazil, in contrast to the `scattered´ remains of the surrounding Spanish empire, `fractured´, as it was, into `anarchical´ and `barbarized´ republics. This courtly character of the institution, concerned with illustrious visitors rather than public education, accounts, perhaps, for its limited interest in addressing a wider audience: on 24 October 1821 a royal decree ordered opening the museum (although `watched by a few guards´ to maintain `convenient order´) on Thursdays from 10 am to 1 pm. (Castro Faria 1949: 4) A first account of the collections, published as late as 1830, comprises birds and insects, agricultural machinery, some species sent from Macao, hunting tools from the Aleutian isles, minerals, medals, indigenous objects and several Egyptian mummies, purchased by Pedro I from an Italian arts dealer. (Lopes 1998: 51; Azevedo 1877: 239) The first room of the exhibition contained reptiles, serpents, lizards, turtles,woods and teratological displays; room 2 showed mollusks, insects, and fish; room 3 held aborigenous mammals and monkeys; rooms 4 and 5 were dedicated to mineralogical displays and artisan crafts; room 7 held the bird collection; room 8 some indigenous artifacts from Pará and Matto Grosso; and room 8 displayed the Egyptian mummies and other antiquities, as well as numismatica and a few paintings. European naturalists who visited the institution in the first half of the century (including influential names such as Bougainville, Du Petit-Thouars, Ribeyrolles, Castelnau and Agassiz) were usually disappointed by its poor stock in indigenous specimens (but, of course, missed the point that the museum did not pretend to represent Brazil to the world, but rather the world from Brazil).
However, during the reign of Pedro II (1840-1889), more eager than his predecessor to fashion an image of himself as an enlightened patron of the sciences, the museum was gradually modified into a centre of research, a site of production and assembly of knowledge on Brazil. Under the direction of Frei Custódio Alves Serrão, a former professor of chemistry at the Escola Militar, the institution was restructured in 1842, following the example of the British Museum (rather than the Muséum de Paris, which had until then provided the model): the collections were divided into four sections headed by subdirectors -comparative anatomy and zoology; botany, agriculture and mechanical arts; mineralogy and geology; numismatics, arts and customs-, and travelling naturalists -mostly of French or German origin- were contracted to supply the institution with species from the interior. On the museum's initiative, Brazil's first industrial exhibition was celebrated in Rio in 1861, to be succeeded by the first national exhibition that same year; a high profile the institution was to maintain at the following exhibitions of 1866, 1873 and 1875, all of which in preparation of Brazil's participation at the World's Fairs, and where the museum exhibited samples of its mineralogical, botanical and ethnographic collections. (Castro Faria 1993: 56-61; Turazzi 1995: 117-123)
If the political project of the Segundo Reinado until, approximately, the late 1860s, rather than one of nation-formation had been the conservation of territorial unity linked to a narrative of dynastic continuity, both allegorically synthesized in a monarchical body fantastically adorned with the heraldic signs of a medieval past and of virginal, abundant nature, then the museum, in its unique juxtaposition of naturalistic and philological narratives, can be read as an extensive exercise in glossing this signifying body through the display of material objects (some of which, like the `mão da justiça´ -a bronze copy of the Emperor's hand taken in 1840 to form part of the insignia displayed at the crowning ceremony- actually converted this very body into a museum object). However, the signs of contradiction and decay in this eccentric articulation of the European narrative of naturalism were increasingly visible not only in the disapproving gaze of visiting scientists but also in more mundane warnings such as the one ushered in director Alves Serrão´s letter to the Government of 1844 complaining that
"the Section of numismatics and liberal arts, archeology, habits and customs of the ancient and modern nations is held in a room whose roof is falling apart, due to great blocks of stucco-work continuously breaking loose." (Castro Faria 1949: 7)
As we shall see, by the late 1860s this image of an edifice crumbling under the weight of its sumptuous ornaments, not only had not changed at the museum, but seemed to have extended to imperial Brazil in general.
The contradictions sustaining the imperial myth of stability surfaced precisely in the moment when Brazil attempted to translate this myth into an aggressive foreign policy and a claim for continental hegemony. In order to mobilize patriotic sentiment and recruit human resources to sacrifice in the trenches of the Paraguayan war (1865-70), `the people´ had to be performatized as a `nation-in-arms´ allegorized, ironically enough, once again in the body of D. Pedro II, who was now portrayed sporting the simple uniform of `the nation's first soldier´ rather than his medieval garments, inspecting troops and visiting field hospitals. (Schwarcz 1998: 295-314)
However, the army, whose battalions were largely comprised by freed black slaves, also embodied a different (and a more modern, functional, and integrative) model of nationality, one that inevitably raised the issue of abolition, and with it those of citizenry and national identity, to the forefront of debates.
It was in this context that the museum after 1870 underwent a major institutional and intellectual refurbishment.
Following the appointment of Ladislau Netto, a botanist trained in France, first as interim (1870) and then as full director (1876), a new set of rules was issued in order to re-organize the museum as a centre of research, teaching and display of the natural and exact sciences: in addition to the publication, from 1876, of the journal Archivos do Museu Nacional, a series of evening lectures on scientific subjects, some of which by invited lecturers from abroad, and often in the presence of the Emperor himself, was established, summaries of which were often published in the local press. Visiting hours were extended to three days a week, attracting, if we are to believe Netto´s successor João Baptista de Lacerda,
"thousands of people avid to see the objects on display. Thus the Museum was in constant contact with all social classes of the country, from the national sovereign to the most modest proletarian." (Lacerda 1906: 45)
It would be interesting to find out whether members of the labouring classes, perhaps involved in the first anarcho-syndicalist organizations, did indeed make their own use of the institution; yet certainly the reforms of 1876 rather attempted to address (and create) a new public of urban middle-class professionals and militaries inclined towards medical, technical and exact science rather than the literary and juridical knowledges of the Court's bachareis. (Sevcenko 1983: 78-82)
The new division was entirely composed of `hard sciences´, section 1 now comprising `anthropology, general and applied zoology, comparative anatomy and animal paleontology´, section 2 `general and applied botany and vegetal paleontology´, and section 3 `physical sciences, mineralogy, geology and general paleontology´. (Regulamento a que se refere o decreto n. 6116, 1876) The archaeological, numismatic and ethnographic collections held in the fourth section, the new museum rules proposed, should be located in a different institution; meanwhile, they would be kept in an annex to the exhibition. The first operation of the new administration, then, was to draw a clear line between nature and culture, purging the former of the literary components it had been laden with in earlier iconographies of the Empire. Now, on the contrary, `nature´ became an object submitted to a utilitarian and disciplinary point of view, in line with contemporary infrastructural, sanitary and engineering projects attempting to `submit Brazil to progress´. (Murilo de Carvalho 1999: 107-129) The affective investment of identity, then, was removed from the object (`nature´) to the subject exploring (and exploiting) its `enormous potentials´. In his Investigações históricas e científicas sobre o Museu Imperial e Nacional (1870), a pamphlet advocating the reforms to be decreed six years later, Netto nevertheless continues to portray the 'nature' of scientific investigation in terms of an aesthetic and harmonious, or indeed a literary order:
But -this we have to say- it would need a far greater share of this article to ask, to urge and to claim for that which we most need, that this important and beneficial institution should rise to the heights from which light and comfort can today -and late enough, it appears to us- spread across the entire country: now forming and preparing a class of naturalists, true interpreters of this great book open before our eyes and which, to say the truth, has only been leafed through by strangers; now encouraging and instructing the industrial class, to whom most certainly the most beautiful pages of Brazil's future opulence and greatness are designated. (Netto 1870: 139)Science, says Netto, is a Brazilian thing: for here it is not anymore the virgin forest with its abundant wildlife which allegorizes national identity, but the esprit colonisateur in which pioneers and scientists are preparing to convert it into a material resource, a deposit of commodities; that is, to transform a museum into a warehouse.
It was to this end, it seems, that the museum -which in the meantime had under the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture- attempted to symbolically purge `nature´ of its present indigenous inhabitants, by relocating ethnography to a separate institution of a decidedly archaeological character, a move all the more acute if we consider that it was during the final quarter of the century, too, that a secular politics of deportations, forced settlements, and gradual legal dispossession of communal lands from indigenous communities was entering its final stage. (Carneiro da Cunha 1998: 146) Museums of national history and ethnography, however, were not founded until the 1920s and 1950s, respectively, and the ethnographic collections soon became once again a central concern of the Museu Nacional´s administrators, eventually to be re-integrated as a full part of the exhibition following the issuing of new regulations in 1888. However, if the fourth section had traditionally been chaired by artists (since 1872, the post had formally been held by the acclaimed painter Pedro Américo de Figueiredo e Melo), under Netto´s administration science would reach out to the field of culture, submitting it to the gaze of the physiologist (a pioneering `Laboratory of Experimental Physiology´, under the direction of the French anatomist Louis Couty, had been established at the museum in 1876). If the Regulamento of 1876 had still sought to divide the field of `anthropology´, as a subdivision along with zoology and paleontology, from `ethnography´ as a field of knowledge not belonging in the temple of scientific Brazil, during the 1880s the museum would pursue the more ambitious aim to re-locate ethnography and archaeology as subdivisions of an anthropological knowledge firmly based on evolutionist (and sometimes, moreover, polygenistic) concepts of `race´. If at previous stages of imperial culture the imagery of romantic indianism had, often though not always, cast a veil over the reality of black slavery as the very backbone of Brazilian economy (Bosi 1994: 91-160; Treece 1986), the `scientific´ re-invention of indigenous culture allowed the museum to intervene obliquely in the debates on citizenship and miscegenation cut loose by abolitionist agitation. On occasions such as the spectacular Exposição Antropológica of 1882 or the Pavillon de l´Amazone, an exhibition at the Paris World's Fair of 1889 curated by Ladislau Netto, this disenchantment of the literary Indian from a physiological and utilitarian perspective allowed for an indirect re-appraisal of blacks´ contribution to Brazilian nationality, even though Afro-Brazilian culture remains absent from the museum until this day and, by the end of the nineteenth century, rather than as an object of `anthropology´, had been addressed rather from the point of view of `legal medicine´ and `mass psychology´. At the museum, meanwhile, African objects continued to be displayed, along with those of the `cannibals´ of New Zealand and the `barbarians´ of Kamchatka, the Aleutians and the Sandwich isles, as icons of a remote and savage world, a global fringe of `primitive peoples´ opposed to the `collecting nations´ amongst which Brazil included itself.
Even though the institution's future director Lacerda would eventually become the chief ideologue of branqueamento, a particular brand of Darwinian nationalism claiming a bright future for Brazil through racial mixture and genetic selection, the museum, then, during the final decades of the Empire rather served as a device of conserving, or re-enforcing through `scientific evidence´, the racial barriers abolitionism threatened to crush. (Schwarcz 1993: 65) Just as blacks, in the ethnographic displays, were symbolically re-located and essentialized in an eternally `savage´ Africa, anthropology exchanged the heroic Tupí Indian of romantic literature for the savage Botocudo, a mentally and physically inferior species of humanity immobilized in an uncannily preserved, prehistorical America. As we shall see, however, it was the exhibition itself which, in a Borgesian inversion of the metonymic relation between the museum and `nature´, produced a totalizing image of savagery which was then projected, as a hologram, into the depths of the rainforest.
On the aftermath of the military coup of 15 November 1889, Netto being away representing the Empire at the Paris World's Fair and the Congress of Americanists at Berlin, João Baptista de Lacerda, as acting director of the museum, paid a visit to the new minister of foreign affairs, the Republican leader Quintino Bocaiuva who suggested the removal of the museum to the vacated imperial palace at Quinta de Boa Vista. (Lacerda 1906: 64) The transfer of the collections was only completed in 1892, due to the occupation of the central patio by the Congresso Constituinte, which was to deliberate over a new constitution: in a strange overlap of architectural, scientific and juridical fictions of the state, then, the attempts to re-design Brazil's legal base and its scientific image, co-existed for two years within the walls of a baroque fantasy of tropical monarchy.
The new beginning, however, proved difficult. Netto had hardly returned to Rio when the brewing struggles between the museum and its foreign correspondents, scientific `seekers´ who had chosen Brazil as their platform to gain an international reputation, (Pyenson 1985) burst into open conflict. The new museum rules, which only allowed Brazilian citizens to apply for new posts, were regarded as discriminatory by the foreign naturalists, but their fury broke loose when, in 1891, Netto demanded daily presence of all staff at the institution (most of the `travelling naturalists´ lived far away from Rio, many of them in the German settlements of the southern provinces). In 1891, the foreign employees Fritz Müller, Hermann von Ihering, Wilhelm Schwacke, Orville Derby and Emil Goeldi, as well as Lacerda himself, resigned in protest from their posts. (Lopes 1998: 197) In a somewhat farcical way, Lacerda´s explanation in 1906 adds a political dimension to the conflict, which he attributes to Netto´s dictatorial character: "It does not offend his memory, worthy of respect in many ways, to say that in the intimacy of his consciousness he paraphrased Louis XIV´s famous dictum: the Museum am I."(Lacerda 1906: 46) Like Floriano Peixoto´s dictatorship -which unsuccessfully tried to reconstruct a central, personalized political power-, Lacerda seems to imply, Netto´s autocratic administration attempted to re-centralize and nationalize scientific activity in a way that led the museum to "the brink of anarchy". Significantly, then, Lacerda once again suggests a parallel between the museum's fate and that of the nation in general, and one in which he himself, who had been appointed director in 1895, after a brief interlude under Domingos Freitas following the retirement of Netto in 1893, comes to occupy the position of a `consolidator´.
However, just as that of the central government, the authority of the museum as the central institution of scientific research and display had been challenged by the foundation of provincial museums in Belém (1871), Curitiba (1876) and São Paulo (1893), which drew heavily on the dissident naturalists of the Museu Nacional to staff their departments and build independent relations with European and North American centres of science. The Swiss zoologist Emil August Goeldi in 1894 assumed the direction of the Museu Paraense, and his former colleague at the Museu Nacional, the German Hermann von Ihering, was appointed director of the Museu Paulista in the same year. Both went on to design highly specialized institutions focusing on local zoology, botany and anthropology, in a symbolic contest with the Museu Nacional over the richness and exclusivity of the natural resources they explored and displayed, as well as over the most `advanced´ scientific method, thus echoing inter-provincial competition for foreign investment and immigration, and hegemony within the nation-state.
The dispute with the Museu Paulista is of particular interest here, for Ihering´s idea of creating a museum specializing in certain questions of zoology (such as mollusks, his own field), rather than providing a panoptical view of local, or national, `nature´, called into question the allegorical link between science, space and the state which had sustained previous museum projects in Brazil. From this new point of view located, significantly, at São Paulo, the most technically advanced and immigrant-populated city of Brazil, not only its romantic iconographies but the nation itself had become an obstacle to the development of a `pure´ and self-sufficient science. In his inaugural speech, Ihering polemically mentioned his own and Goeldi´s museum as the only scientific institutions in Brazil (Ihering 1895: 19-24), provoking an immediate response from Lacerda which, once again, raised the question of representing the nation:
Allow me, however, to ask him [Ihering]: a museum in which numerous collections are distributed in sections, according to the rules adopted by science, where there are methodically classified specimen, workshops of taxidermy and assembly, a botanical garden and a rich herbarium like no other in Brazil; which has a library containing rarities as well as the most recent publications on all the branches of the natural sciences, which has laboratories well-equipped with the most modern devices and instruments - is this a museum erected on scientific foundations or not?(Lacerda 1896: 31)Let us, then, take a walk through the collections to judge for ourselves and to see how, at the different moments observed so far, scientific evidence was displayed as, at the same time, an evidence of the museum's scientificity.
Visual documentation of the exhibition prior to its removal to the Quinta de Boa Vista is sparse, and almost our only sources to reconstruct the aesthetic of display are the museum guides written by Netto and Lacerda in support of their nomination, or of the reforms and amendments they had planned or carried out. The museum guide, then, must not be read as a mere transcription of a spatial arrangement but as one that inscribes into it a perspective, a way of seeing, and thus as an attempt to control the performative dimension of museum space as a crossroads of the production and reception of 'knowledge'. As Mieke Bal writes,
"the space of the museum presupposes a walking tour, an order in which the exhibits and panels are to be viewed and read. Thus it addresses an implied 'focalizer', whose tour is the story of the production of the knowledge taken in and taken home." (Bal 1992: 561)Netto´s and Lacerda´s museum guides, however, not only attempted to create `didactic´ museum objects, but also to shape a public, as an object of education facing the evidence of modelled, and moralizing, objects. As such, they can be read as a particular genre of travel literature, as synthetic and instructive journeys through Brazil, or rather, through the Brazil of `nature´ and `primitive culture´ fashioned by the museum. As in the exhibition itself, metonymy is the dominant trope employed, as the objects invoke scenes of wildlife, of expeditions and of indigenous ritual, cutting into the simultaneity of museum space the spatio-temporal depths of travel and of archaeology. The museum guide, then, is what converts the visit to the museum into the miniature of an initiatic journey through space and time, that of the naturalist who `discovers´ Brazil. (Süssekind 1990)
As I have tried to suggest, the question of positing indigenous objects within this narrative marks the critical point in an image of a `naturalised´ national identity, the point where issues of race, of scientificity, and of history and memory, are symbolically negotiated. Let us, then, concentrate here on the ways in which our guides take us through the fourth section, the one of `archaeology, ethnography and numismatics´, and through the `Anthropological Exhibition´ of 1882. But before joining the two scientists, we will follow Moreira de Azevedo, author of O Rio de Janeiro: sua história, monumentos, homens notáveis, usos e curiosidades (1877), through his chapter on the museum. For, although Moreira´s account of his visit post-dates the guide published by Ladislau Netto in 1870, his `touristic´ rather than `scientific´ perspective allows us a gaze at the museum previous to the introduction of scientific rigor and national focus, as a `spectacular´ collection of `marvels´ whose scope is decidedly `imperial´.
Here's what he saw:
This museum contains many curious objects, among which we can mention the following: an orangutan, a collection of Brazilian macaws, composed of fifty individuals, the most notable being the two specimen of the short-tailed truchiurus variety, still very rare in European collections a few years ago, and one couple of these same individuals sent from Goiaz by president José Saturnino da Costa Pereira [...] In the Pompeyan room, two hundred and seventy artifacts donated by D. Pedro II can be observed; in the room of Brazilian archaeology, one sees a scepter made of compact slate, of one metre and seven centimetres length, and other curious Indian objects. In the archaeological salon: an idol, offered to the museum in 1843; two embalmed heads of chiefs from New Zealand, from whence they were brought by Jacques Arangó and sent to the museum by the minister Villa Nova Portugal; a cape of red and yellow feathers from the habit of Mamahamalú, king of the Sandwich isles, who gave it to D. Pedro I when visiting Rio de Janeiro [...]; a statue of Charity donated in 1845 by its author Fernando Petrich; the skull of an Asian elephant, offered by D. Pedro I; a narwhal's tooth of fourteen palms´ length; a great piece of a swordfish's spur, found drilled one palm and six fingers deep into the flank of the war brig Constancia, and donated to the museum on 29 March 1830; an indigenous canoe made of a single piece of jutahy bark, and many other indigenous objects. (Azevedo 1877: 236-9)
In the same way as his hastened sentences almost devoid of punctuation race across the page, Moreira´s gaze runs in bewilderment from one `curious object´ to the next, altogether ignoring the contexts and sets of relations proposed by the order of display. Indigenous objects are only singled out when they can be marked -in the same way as the elephant's skull or the South Sea king's cape of feathers- as `strange´ and `extraordinary´: indeed, it is their `singularity´ rather than their `representativity´ which attracts the chronicler's eye, cutting through the metonymical world-image proposed by the museum to discover a spectacle, a potentially unlimited cornucopia of singular curiosities. Rather than to classify the objects within the naturalist's grid of species and eras, this gaze attempts a kind of material philology which reconstructs every single object's discovery and its chain of previous owners, resulting in a kaleidoscope of minuscule narratives of adventure. Together these compose a historical and dynastic image of power and wealth.
Netto´s reforms of the 1870´s were concerned, precisely, with the construction of typological series in order to contextualize and inscribe Moreira´s `wonders of the world´ in a planetary order based on the theory of evolutionary transformism. Netto´s own guide from 1870, the year he took office as interim director, can thus be read as a prospective re-evaluation of the exhibition and its contents, one that is still caught half-way between the Empire's cultural myths and the utilitarian visions of the emerging new elites. Again, the fourth section would provide the space to articulate the two competing images of Brazil, and to reconcile nature with culture. However, the juxtaposition of both museum aesthetics becomes clear as Netto begins by quoting the Pequeno panorama do Rio de Janeiro, an earlier text by Moreira de Azevedo containing a description of the museum edifice on Campo de Santana: the flaneur describes the outward appearance of the museum and locates it in the urban context, before the scientist takes us into the showrooms. His pace is not the tourist's excited ramble from one spectacular object to the next, but a methodical description of one showcase after another, a text whose subunits mimic those of the exhibition itself and explain the reasons of their composition.
Where, in room 6, Moreira´s philological gaze had been attracted by the Pompeyan antiquities, Netto´s interest clearly lies with the indigenous exhibits shown opposite, as if suggesting a dual line of descent. Having mentioned the Pompeyan collection in one half-sentence, he pauses to describe in detail the autochthonous contents of showcase 6, to finally single out a painted adornment, a tiny piece nevertheless laden with significance:
This curious antiquity which was found in a receptacle near lake Arary on Marajó island, is made of very fine clay, particularly useful for the delicate paint embellishing it, which consists of straight, broken, parallel, or crossed black lines on white background. None of the tribes known in Brazil over the last three centuries would have been capable of producing objects as perfect as this curious adornment, or instrument of prayer or superstition. The individual who made it was more than an intelligent son of our forests - he was almost an artist of modern civilization; a spirit beholding quite developed ideas and perhaps a considerable feeling for Asian art. (Netto 1870: 252)
Rather than `primitives´, then, the Indians would be the `degenerate´ offspring of an ancient Brazilian civilization - an idea first cherished by the Austrian naturalist Karl von Martius in the 1840s. (Azevedo 1994: 418-9)
To scholars such as Netto, who would eventually claim a Phoenician origin for Brazil's first inhabitants, this allowed not only to naturalize the Indians´ `disappearance´ as the culmination of a millenary process, but also to establish an empathic analogy between the tropical empires of past and present. What is important here, however, is to observe how Netto´s aesthetic experience of the indigenous object visibilizes the invisible, taking us on a speculative journey into the forest and into remote pasts, from whence we return with a `scientific knowledge´ of the origins. But there is also a note of melancholic resignation in our guide's voice as he lays out the indigenous collections before us, oscillating between present and imperfect, or between the languages of ethnography and archaeology: the time of the Indians, this language suggests, is allochronic (Fabian 1983), a time that will inevitably be left behind once the dynamic and expansive time of modernity will have reached out to the space of the forest. Eventually, indigenous and popular culture, safeguarded thanks to the conservative efforts of ethnography and folklore, fall under the same sympathetic and compassionate gaze which precociously `rescues´ their memory in the reliquary of a Brazil soon to disappear:
Showcase n. 10. This drawer contains: a yoke; a beautiful belt of feathers; a loincloth called pakniribiari; several adornments of the Amazon Indians; a model of the rafts used in the seas of northern Brazil; a lasso and shotballs of the gaúchos of Rio Grande do Sul, and on the lower shelf part of the collection of vessels used by the Coroado Indians of S. Pedro de Alcantara.(Netto 1870: 276)
Before we leave the exhibition, however, we have yet to acknowledge the large drawer placed in the middle of the room, surrounded by the seventeen showcases displaying indigenous life. For here, as if to cleanse our eyes and minds from the impressions of savage fetishism, we are finally made to admire the fetish of capital:
Between this last showcase and that of the Bolivian antiquities, placed next to it, there is a big glass-framed drawer containing a large number of ancient and modern coins, made of gold, silver, copper and nickel, from colonial as well as modern Brazil, from Portugal, from Spain, from France, from England, from Holland, from Belgium, from Prussia, from Sweden, from Denmark, from Austria, from Hungary, from the German Empire, from Hamburg, Hanover, Brandenburg, Frankfurt, Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Baden, Saxony, from Russia, Poland, Turkey, Tunisia, Ceylon, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, China, from Switzerland, Italy, Sardinia, Tuscany, Lucca, Venice, Milan, the Vatican, the Italian Revolution, the two Sicilies, from the United States, from Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, New Granada, Buenos Ayres, Montevideo, etc.(Netto 1870: 283)Numismatica, then, seem to embody the very model of metonymical representation of larger totalities Netto´s exhibition is based upon: the flow of capital, placed in sharp contrast to the `primitive´ materials in the surrounding showcases, devoid of any exchange-value (a view shared, ironically enough, by the burglars who broke into the museum on several occasions, and dedicated themselves exclusively to the numismatic collection). However, just as the coins secured from the circuit of trade had transmogrified into prescious remnants from past times, indigenous crafts acquired an aura -and thus, value-precisely as representing a world in extinction.
It was this notion of their mnemonic value that it was the museum's duty to safeguard (Lopes 1998: 170-4), which inspired the Anthropological Exhibition of 1882, an event understood as a necessary complement to the Exposição de História do Brasil, held in 1881 in the National Library, and the first Exposição da Indústria Nacional, celebrated in early 1882 in preparation of Brazil's participation at Buenos Aires´ Exposición Continental that same year. Together, these events proposed to re-fashion an image of Brazil in line with what had been the aim of the great exhibitions over the second half of the century: to display the industrial achievements of the metropolis as well as, in contrast, the primitive 'otherness' collected on the peripheries, thus celebrating the triumph of progress and civilization over nature and savagery. (Hinsley 1991: 345)
Once again, within this `exhibitionary complex´ of the Empire´s final decade, the task entrusted onto the Anthropological Exhibition was to produce what we may call, with Maria Inez Turazzi, a `stereoscopic image´ (Turazzi 1995: 17): for, not only was it to produce a renovated, `scientific´ vision of the indigenous communities, one which would strip them of most of their former, legendary and heroic, qualities and instead portray them as an inferior level of humanity; but this very mode of display also formed part of the image so as to demonstrate, in contrast, the `advanced´ character of modern Brazilian science and civilization. The Exhibition, parts of which Netto was to expose again seven years later at Gautier´s `Exposition de l´Habitation Humaine´ on the Paris World´s Fair, thus paved the way from an archaeological concern with the `origins of Brazilian man´ towards a physiological interest in the different degrees of `savagery´, in line with what would soon become the museum´s new role in assessing the `racial qualities´ of the population. (Schwarcz 1993: 71-75) In 1881, Netto had undertaken an expedition to the coast of Pará from where he returned not only with a large collection of ancient pottery, but also with ritual objects as well as skeletons and skulls sacked from Amanajé tombs on the upper Rio Capim. (Netto 1889: 55-89) The Exhibition also featured three Cherente Indians and a family of Botocudos brought from Goiaz and Espirito Santo, who were put on show in a simulated everyday-life environment. In addition to their living bodies, plaster casts were used as `life groups´ in other areas of the Exhibition, and portraits by Decio Villares and Aurélio de Figueiredo, two painters soon to become the foremost exponents of the positivist and historicist school, depicted them as representants of `physiological types´.
The Exhibition, opened on 29 July 1882 in the presence of the entire Court, covered the extension of seven showrooms, each of which baptised for the occasion with the name of a famous Brazilian explorer or ethnographer, and was celebrated by Netto in his opening speech as "the most national event which the sciences and letters could possibly expect to undertake in order to raise the Empire of Brazil to one level with universal intellectuality." (Castro Faria 1993: 67) Lacerda, in charge of taking anthropometrical measurements of the Indians featuring at the exhibition, was to recall later:
In the showrooms, huts containing the nets and domestic tools of the Indian were constructed, arranged with canoes and roes as used for fishing, and figures of Indian hunters, all imitated from nature. The beautiful collections of typical dresses and feather garments which the Museum already owned, were brought into a more artistic order; arms, arrows, maracás, trumpets, blowpipes, bows, occupied a great extension of the room; the stone axes, grinders, tamping tools, tembetás, etc., in their regular distribution formed tables worthy of comparison. [...] Exhibits of carbon paintings, of remains of birds and fish extracted from the sambaqui tombs, a topographical sketch of these exquisite formations of caves, human skulls and skeletons found in these, stone tools and arrowheads, composed another group which attracted visitors´ attention. [...] Each exhibit belonged to a particular tribe, thus facilitating comparison between artifacts of one and the same kind, but from different tribes.(Lacerda 1906: 58)
The use of typological tables of tools and crafts in order to `facilitate comparison´ between more and less advanced tribes, indicates that the museum had exchanged Netto´s former `degenerationist´ ideas on indigenous culture for a linear and evolutionist narrative on human development. Typological display principles were being theorized at exactly that time by Pitt-Rivers at London´s Bethnal Green museum, whose immediate aim consisted in convincing a working-class audience all too easily seduced by revolutionary agitation, that -in Pitt-Rivers´ famous phrase- `nature makes no jump´ (Bennett 1995: 198-200).
The combination of these didactic arrangements of material culture with simulations of indigenous villages and bodies celebrated `Indian life´ in the aesthetic of the ruin: the public display of indigenous men and women, surrounded by their tools and ritual objects, the remains of their dead and the plaster replicas of their own mortal frames, actually resembled an autopsy performed in an anatomical theatre. Even the living, this performance seemed to say, can be shown as if already dead, for death -or, in evolutionist terms, extinction- was their ultimate fate. At the same time, this refocusing of the museological gaze from archaeological remains onto the surface of the body anticipated a shift from the panoramic to the panoptic: the very way in which visitors of the Anthropological Exhibition were enabled (or at least made to believe) to catch a glimpse of the `back region´ of indigenous village life, without those looked at being able to return their gazes (as they had been enframed as museum exhibits), would soon become the gaze of physiology assessing the entire population´s genetic qualities and their subsequent ability to integrate the nation. Lacerda, appointed director in 1895 after the move of the institution to the Quinta de Boa Vista, the former palace of the Emperor, was also the chief ideologue of branqueamento and, as official Brazilian delegate to the first International Raciological Conference in Geneva in 1911, expressed the view that in a century Brazil would have achieved complete `whitening´ of its population. (Schwarcz 1993: 11) From the former seat of monarchy, then, the physiological sciences turned the museum gaze outward and transformed `the people´ into the object of a new museology; one, however, which rather than to arrange groups and species in the horizontal and normative order of the Linnaean panorama, sought to predict (and establish the laws guiding) its possible alterations -degenerations, abnormities, mutations-. This new, panoptic concern turned the museum from a site of display into one of experimentation, as Lacerda argues in his own museum guide, Fastos do Museu Nacional, published in 1906:
...we must understand that nowadays the museums´ mission is not limited, as it used to be, to that of a simple deposit of interesting objects exposed to the gaze of the public, which often does not even know how to really make the most of them. Its´ field of action is much vaster, for the fact that it includes today the investigable part of science, the experimental research as well as the systematizing, coordination and classification of natural species and collections.(Lacerda 1906: 72)
Lacerda´s stroll through the collections is a striking example of this inversion of the `museum effect´ so masterfully plotted by Borges in "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius": for, whereas Netto´s guide had laid out before our eyes the distribution of showcases in a panoramic order, to then gradually zoom in, highlight individual objects and delve into the metonymical chains of meaning attached to them, Lacerda unfolds a millenary narrative of migrations and miscigenation which is only now and then illustrated by exhibits at hand. It is the triumph of the label over the object, as if echoing the famous phrase coined in 1891 by George Brown Goode, head of the United States´ National Museum: "An efficient educational museum may be described as a collection of instructive labels, each illustrated by a well-selected specimen." (Kirshenblatt 1991: 395)
The background dimension of this new museology, then, the one from whence it selected its `specimens´, was `reality´ itself, now submitted to the taxonomical apparatuses in the laboratories and dissecting tables in the museum´s backyards. It is due to this same inversion that Lacerda´s guided tour, eventually, turns into an essay on Brazil´s present and future:
Civilization is entering the sertões of Brazil: in less than a century the indigenous tribes will have disappeared, and it will be difficult to find in their descendants a trace of the primitive race. Cross-breeding between Indian and white is sparse among us compared to that of white and black. We can easily understand that this is how it must be, because it was these two races which lived in intimate and continuous contact with one another in the populated centres; whereas the indigenous tribes remained far from the civilized areas occupied by the white race. As workforce, the Indian is unquestionably inferior to the black; he is more agile than the latter but his physical resistance and muscular strength are sensibly lower. We have measured with a dynamometre the muscular strength of adult individuals belonging to the Bororó, Botocudo, and Cherente tribes, and the instrument showed a force below that which is habitually observed in white and black individuals. (Lacerda 1906: 100-1)
Anatomical inferiority, then, rather than expulsion from communal lands, systematic torture, famine and diseases, the collateral effects of peripheral capitalism on the height of the Amazonian rubber boom, (Taussig 1987: 3-135) according to Lacerda accounted for the unusual dimensions, even for Brazilian standards, of decimations among the indigenous population since the proclamation of the republic. Once again, the museum had managed to transform history into nature: but then, nature had now ceased to be an empire, a harmonious and stable order, and had turned into the Darwinian republic of predators and capitals.