“I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral” John Burroughs
Well I’m not normally a big fan of museums, they always seem to conjure up pictures of dark and dingy buildings with poor lighting and glass cases full of unidentifiable body parts and stuffed animals. So I was pleasantly surprised to spend an enjoyable afternoon wandering along Portimão waterfront and dipping into the Museum. If you head for the water and then walk along towards the marina and sailing club towards the Museum you will go past some lovely stone statues and carvings. This one is actually from the square up in the town by the underground car park and is one of my favourites, it is 3D and quite eerie, but there are loads of others all the way along the front to enjoy as well.
The real reason for heading to the museum was actually to see the World Press Photo Exhibition (which is on until the 28th August) – it is not an easy exhibition with many disturbing and challenging photos which often bring the horror of war and death into sharp relief. The winning picture was taken by South-African photographer Joni Bieber and shows the portrait of Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan girl whose husband and father-in-law cut off her nose and ears.
Entrance to the World Press Photo exhibition is free; it can be visited on Tuesday, from 7.30pm until 11pm, and Wednesday and Sunday from 3pm until 11pm.
If you are well organised you can also go to the museum on Sunday as well – I think it is free entry on a Sunday – the opening hours are quite hard to find until you actually arrive and pick up a leaflet (!) but they are open as follows:
July 15 – Aug 31st Open Tuesdays 7.30pm – 11pm, and Wednesdays and Sundays 3pm – 6pm
Sept 1st – July 14th Open Tuesdays 2.30pm – 6pm, and Wednesdays and Sundays 10am – 6pm
If you can work all that out you can find a small window there this week where you can see the Photo exhibition – and the museum!
The building is housed in the former “Feu Hermanos” canning factory dating from the end of the 19th century, and has been sympathetically restored and remodelled, and has a real sense of history and a way of life now extinguished. The museum itself is split into three sections, the first covers the history of the area, including the pre-historic Roman times and Islamic occupation. The main area covers the fish-canning industry, and is an amazing step back in time. There are lots of TV sets showing footage of how the fish were brought in, cleaned, de-headed and gutted and then packaged. You can walk round some of the original work areas and they bring the museum to life, you can imagine what it would have been like to work there. We also realised we would have had a real problem if we had been employed as all the machinery and pulley systems were so low – we had to keep ducking!
There is also a small section where you can go underground into the former cistern of the factory, where they used to catch rain water, this is the only slightly disappointing area as it is just a walkway with some projected images of the flora and fauna of the Arade river area, although it is interesting to see the tunnel area.
Upstairs is a second separate gallery area, and this currently has a really different exhibition of ceramic work by Sylvain Bongard, a local artist. The items are all over-sized and have also been photographed underwater – it’s quite hard to explain but certainly worth a look!
After all that culture and history, all that is left to do is wander back along the waterfront in the direction of the sardine restaurants – and have a nice leisurely meal… and you can always round the evening off with an ice cream and a seat in the lovely little garden area near the fountain!