The place for anyone looking for a good overview of Brazilian history from Cabral's arrival in 1500 to the present. Housed in the former national armory, the National History Museum features seven permanent exhibits on themes such as early exploration, coffee plantations, and modernism, each of which is illustrated with abundant maps and artifacts. Even better, much of the Portuguese signage comes with often very opinionated English translation. Keep in mind that Brazilian museums haven't bought into the "interactive learning" idea. Instead, displays consist of glass cases and explanatory text. They're carefully curated -- one case shows a mattock used in an 18th-century peasant rebellion juxtaposed with a bright red banner of the modern Sem-Terra movement, a telling evocation of the land distribution problem that has plagued the Brazilian countryside for 400 years and counting. Allow 2 hours (longer if you're a serious history buff).
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010