Casa Fernando Pessoa is a museum of literature in Lisbon, Portugal, responsible for preserving, studying, and promoting the legacy of the poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), recognised worldwide as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
It was inaugurated in 1993, in the building where Pessoa lived his last 15 years. It is located at Campo de Ourique, a bustling neighbourhood with a diverse and active local community and known for its traditional commerce.
Casa Fernando Pessoa is a municipal museum, not for profit, managed by EGEAC - the municipal company of Lisbon City Council, responsible for managing most of the city’s cultural public venues.
In 2019-2020, Casa Fernando Pessoa went through relevant renovation works, which have led to the complete requalification of its public areas: exhibition rooms, library, auditorium, ticket-office, gift shop, bathrooms, and the entrance to the museum. The building became more accessible and sustainable, the circulation of visitors was improved, and the exhibition area was increased.
It reopened to the public in August 2020 with a new long-term exhibition and now has new spaces, services, products, and stories to share.
Casa Fernando Pessoa’s renovation project benefited from support of Turismo de Portugal (Tourism of Portugal: line for accessible tourism). José Adrião Arquitectos are the authors of the architecture project; designers Nuno Quá and Cláudio Silva sign the museography project, together with the directors of the museum, based on a curatorial proposal by Paulo Pires do Vale, with the assessment of the museologist Ana Carvalho. Access Culture was the accessibility consultant.
Casa Fernando Pessoa exhibtion © José Frade
Casa Fernando Pessoa has a team of 18 professionals. The team interacts with visitors in a friendly and attentive way to their personal needs and requests. All staff received training in accessibility and diversity issues.
Hospitality is the keyword: Casa Fernando Pessoa houses the apartment where Fernando Pessoa lived from 1920 till 1935 and we look forward to giving visitors the sense of being welcome at Pessoa’s address, a genius writer indeed, and a human being fascinated by poetry and literature, like us.
The educational content of the exhibition is accurate and accessible. All the wall texts and captions are written in plain language and are bilingual Portuguese-English. We believe both an expert in literature and a person with not so frequent reading habits can enjoy the exhibition and find points of interest and curiosity in it.
We are very honoured to have won the Best Portuguese Museum Award for 2021, from the Portuguese Association of Museology (APOM), a recognition that gives us daily motivation to interact with visitors. As stated by João Neto, president of APOM, Casa Fernando Pessoa stood out among more than 200 candidates as: "a museum that reformulated itself, believing it was able to change into another dimension".
The Museum also won the Integrated Access (physical, social, intellectual) Award and the Plain Language Award, both from Access Culture, a Portuguese association that promotes access to cultural participation. These prizes contribute to raise the visibility of the museum and are a great recognition from experts we admire.
The new museography provides a feeling of intimacy and uniqueness, as we visit the poet’s address and get to know exciting stories we can relate to. At the same time, it opens the door to Pessoa’s writings, allowing them to keep resonating in the visitor’s mind after one leaves the Museum. Taking a book from the bookstore, or a short verse learned by heart, is a way to continue the experience of the visit, while talking about it to family and friends. The power of literature can be surprising.
The collection comprises a wide variety of items: books, manuscripts, periodicals, original furniture, works of art, personal and work objects used by Pessoa and his family members.
It is now arranged to engage and follow the visitor from the first known written record of Pessoa at the age of six, to the last sentence he drafted on the eve of his death.
It is organised around three major themes, one for each floor.
Guided visit - Children Group © José Frade EGEAC
The exhibition starts at the 3rd Floor: Pessoa as a writer, focusing on one of his major distinctive features in world literature: the creation of an entangled system of literary characters, more than 100, to whom Pessoa attributed different styles and amounts of texts. This is also when we unveil to the non-Portuguese speaker visitor that “Pessoa” means “person” in Portuguese, a symbolic coincidence concerning someone who imagined so many different characters.
At the 2nd Floor we present Pessoa as a reader, and we highlight the tight connection between reading and writing. Pessoa’s Private Library is the most valuable resource of our collections: it comprises approximately 1200 books from all ranges of knowledge, from sciences to religion, philosophy, mathematics, and literature, among other interests. Pessoa was a voracious reader and left numerous handwritten notes in the pages of his books. These books are now on display, conveniently preserved but finally accessible, while before they had to be kept in the deposit, due to conservation matters. It is important to mention that Pessoa’s Private Library was entirely digitised and has been accessible online on the Museum’s website for more than 10 years, mainly free of copyright. The temporary exhibition room can be found on this same floor.
The journey ends at the 1st Floor – the apartment where Pessoa lived for his last 15 years. The areas of the rooms are drawn on the floor, as in a blueprint of an architecture project: the kitchen, the living-room, the poet’s room, and the children’s room where his nephew and niece were born in the 1920’s. It was his niece, a lady who is now 96 years old, who helped us to reconstruct the layout of the flat, with her prodigious memory and her incredible generosity. Here, we talk with visitors about the man Pessoa was and the time in which he lived, his childhood in South Africa, his adult life in Lisbon at the outbreak of modernism, his friends, his affective relationships, what he published and all he left unpublished, and his eagerness for international recognition that only came after his death. The exhibition’s last manuscript on display shows Pessoa’s last words, written already at the hospital: the day before he died, he jotted down, in English, a single sentence on the top of a page: “I know not what tomorrow will bring.”
The museum also has, since its foundation, a library specialising in poetry, as a working place for students and researchers. The catalogue of Portuguese and international poetry, texts on literary theory and criticism and, of course, the works by and about Pessoa in several languages are now more accessible.
The auditorium has been moved to the ground floor and is better equipped from the technical and acoustic points of view. At the rate of once a week, we organise heritage-based programmes regarding our collections, as well as programmes generally connected to the book circuit: readings, book presentations, debates on relevant current issues.
Sharing stories and facts about Pessoa’s genius and exceptionality with visitors is our everyday work. As a home for literature, our mission is to promote reflection and debate on the power of literature and the transformative effects of reading.
The Best in Heritage
The world's only survey of award-winning museum, heritage and conservation projects.
European Heritage Association
Trg kralja Petra Krešimira IV, 7
© Copyright 2002-2017 The Best In Heritage. All rights reserved.
Developed by Edulogic