Chapter 8 The Colonial Garden and the Colonial Agricultural Museum: Education, Research and “Tropical Illusion” in the Imperial Metropolis

In: Science, Technology and Medicine in the Making of Lisbon (1840–1940)
Cláudia Castelo
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Since the early twentieth century, two contiguous and interrelated institutions inscribed colonial landscapes and commodities in the Belém’s neighborhood: the Colonial Agricultural Garden (1912) and the Colonial Agricultural Museum (1929). These scientific institutions served as colonial laboratories in the capital of the empire, places of study and training of colonial agriculture and forestry engineers, and loci of propaganda of the economic potentialities of the Portuguese colonies. The garden and the museum were also the setting for the colonial section of the Portuguese World Exhibition in 1940, where the diversity and wealth of the Portuguese Empire – nature, people, products and achievements – were at display for millions of visitors.

This chapter discusses the role and place of these scientific institutions within Lisbon at different geographic scales. It addresses the conditions of colonial knowledge production and circulation, the social relations of experts, workers, students and visitors that permeated the garden and the museum, and the interactions with the city’s dynamics and representations as an imperial metropolis. It argues that its location updated and reinforced Belém’s imperial “memory complex” adding a new scientific dimension to it: the agriculture sciences as a promise of future – through the rational development of the colonial economies – next to vestiges of the past maritime discoveries.

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