Built upon university Natural History, Physics and Chemistry collections, dating from as early as the 18th century, the recently created Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto (MHNC-UP) came about as the result of the merging of two major museums in the University – the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum, both formally created in 1996.
Now committed with a much wider mission that the addition of those of the two institutions that gave rise to it, the new museum holds historical collections in the areas of Zoology (with important collections of avian and mammal fauna), several Entomology collections, and Paleontology specimens. In parallel, instruments and specimens from the 19th century Chemistry and Physics laboratories constitute a major asset of the MHNC-UP.
Adding to the traditional Natural History and Science Museum collections, the MHNC-UP is the guardian of the collections of the Anthropology Institute, created in the first quarter of the 20th century and responsible for some of the major Anthropological Missions organized in the Portuguese imperial domains of the time. Hence, the MHNC-UP also holds significant specimens of African, Asian and Melanesian Art, instruments, tools and supporting documents written by their collectors.
Additionally, the MHNC-UP includes the magnificent Botanical Garden, formally dating from 1952 but built on the historic 19th century Campo Alegre Estate. A traditional bourgeoisie garden, reflecting the aesthetics of the successive renovation interventions that took place on its grounds, the Campo Alegre Estate/Botanical Garden is a living testimony of how gardens have been of pivotal importance in the preservation of botanic al species, for teaching purposes and, of course, for leisure.
The University of Porto Herbarium – PO – completes the full set of collections contributing to the extraordinary richness of the MHNC-UP. With thousands of specimens, illustrations, photographs and teaching models dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the University of Porto Herbarium holds specimens from the original collectors in previously Portuguese Imperial territories, such as São Tomé, Mozambique, Angola and East Timor. Field books and photographs produced and gathered by the successive researchers associated with the Herbarium collections, enhance the value of the collection.
Recently subjected to an extensive refurbishment process, involving not only a deep infrastructural intervention, but also the full revision of its museographic discourse, the MHNC-UP, in close collaboration with the Ciência Viva Agency, is creating an unparalleled platform of science dissemination, located in the heart of the city of Porto.
In addition to its main historical building, situated in the most touristic district of the city, the new Museum will extend throughout the city to encompass the Hall of Biodiversity. Based in one of the most emblematic spaces of Porto – the Botanical Garden and the magical Casa Andresen - and scheduled to open to the public by the end of 2016, the Hall of Biodiversity is an exquisite science centre in which Art meets Biology to give rise to jaw dropping sensorial experiences purposely tailored to celebrate the diversity of life.