Portuguese Communications Museum, Lisbon, Portugal

The Communications Museum, opened in 1997 at Rua do Instituto Industrial, 16, in Lisbon, is a pedagogical space of scientific and technological nature, where, in a playful and interactive way, you can have access to information about the past of communications and also about the technologies of the future. The Communications Museum belongs to the Portuguese Communications Foundation – FPC, and is responsible for the museological collection of its founders (ANACOM, CTT and Portugal Telecom) and for its dissemination.

The Communications Museum is the most visible face of the Portuguese Communications Foundation, created on October 6th, 1997, by its founding members ANACOM – National Communications Authority, CTT – Portuguese Postal Services and PT – Portugal Telecom (now Altice).

The Museum is an active element in the execution of the Foundation’s primary mission: to promote the study, conservation and dissemination of the historical, scientific and technological communications heritage.

At the Communications Museum – a living science and technology workshop – children and grown-ups alike can discover how much fun communicating can be. Focusing on the general public and students, the Education Department runs pedagogical programmes, themed visits and entertainment based on the exhibitions that morph into real guided journeys through the history of communications in a fun and interactive format.

Besides the permanent exhibitions, the Museum also organises temporary exhibits and welcomes public interest initiatives that deserve to be seen in such an open and dynamic space.

Portuguese Communications Foundation
Located in the riverside area of Lisbon, The Portuguese Communications Foundations (FPC) was created in 1997 by the founding members ANACOM, CTT and MEO.

The FPC is the guardian of Portugal’s communication heritage and its chief purpose is to conserve and divulge it. It also aims to assert itself as a nationally and internationally recognised cultural and scientific institution that plays an active role in promoting citizenship, literacy, learning and social inclusion.
The existing heritage includes a valuable collection of pieces ranging from the 16th century to the present day.

The PCF has celebrated protocols with various institutions, including schools and Universities. Within the ultimate goal of promoting and consolidating its role in Portuguese society, these apply to many different areas such as exchange of documental information, internship programmes and the promotion and organisation of diverse activities. The PCF also develops international cooperation projects with organisations in the Portuguese-speaking countries, including running internships and training courses in partnership with AICEP – International Organisation for Portuguese Communications.

This heritage is grouped into the Postal, Telecommunications and Art and Philately collections. It can also be consulted in the Historical Archive, Iconography Archive and the Library, and online in the Digital Catalogues.

The Museum of Communications is an active and visible part of the achievement of the Foundation’s purpose. It holds exhibitions on the science and techniques linked to the sector, allowing visitors to learn about its history and to experience the future of technologies, highlighting the permanent exhibitions Overcoming Distance – Five Centuries of Communications in Portugal, Mail Coach and the House of the Future in the Cloud – Living in a Smart City, as well as exhibitions of contemporary art.

The Foundation is therefore a place in which the past, present and future of communications are intertwined. It is a platform for innovation and experimentation in new technologies and their impact on the way people organise and live their daily lives.

The Building
The Foundation is located on Rua D. Luís I in a river-side area that was known for its strong connections to the sea and industrial works. Housed in a building built in the 1940’s as the H. Vaultier Factory, the restoration process was led by a team of architects and engineers from Portugal Telecom (now, Altice) who preserved the original façade, merely changing its colour from dark pink to bright yellow.

The work on the interior created large areas which are now a museum, with permanent and temporary exhibition rooms, an auditorium, a multi-purpose room, training and meeting rooms, a library, a multimedia area, a shop, a cafeteria, and staff access only areas.

The interior spaces were decorated with high quality materials such as stone for the floors and sidings and noble woods for the walls. Steel, glass and plaster complement the range of finishings.

What can now be visited is a place where the past, present and future come together and cohabit in harmony for the fruition and enjoyment of the general public, especially the younger generations.

History of the Building
The building where the Foundation is located, created by the architect João Simões Antunes, was once a factory and later a Telex Central. Originally owned by Instituto Superior Técnico (a Portuguese engineering university), the building was sold (even though it was still under construction) in 1944 for the price of 645 000 escudos (the Portuguese currency at the time) to the company H. Vaultier. The building had three sections but Vaultier transformed them into one conjoined space.

In 1946, when construction was finished, the owners of the building placed an iron warehouse for the construction industry and fire service and agricultural vehicles repair shops on the first floor. On the second floor, the conveyor belt factories were installed. The third floor was for the hose factory, an exhibition room and a cafeteria for 150 employees.

In 1970, the building gained a new three-floor block. By this time, it was already the property of the General Postal, Telegraphs and Telephones Administration, that bought it in 1969 from Maxime Vaultier for 27 000 000 escudos. The new block was inaugurated in 1973 with a new Telex Central that was part of a plan to remodel and develop the telex and gentex networks.

After the split between CTT (Postal Services) and Portuguese Telecommunications in 1992, the building was given to Portugal Telecom (now Altice). Years later, the Portuguese Communications Foundation inherited the building.

Postal Collections
This section of the museum includes the collections listed below and feature items and equipment dating from the 18th century to the present day. The many items and equipments document the evolution of the systems and techniques used by the Post Office in Portugal.

Scale models
Consisting of maquettes of CTT buildings, a post rider staging post and central stations.

Signs used in buildings and/or postal services such as boards, plaques and arrows, and also signs related to operating information or delivery times.

Urban post office furniture (administrative and customer service areas), safes and chest safes for safeguarding valuables, and specific CTT furniture.

Bags and Sacks
Mail bags and sacks for carrying the post and pouches and/or folders used to deliver correspondence.

Post Receptacles
Postboxes, embedded letterboxes, outdoor and indoor receptacles and respective accessories.

Miniatures of road, rail and animal-traction postal transport; stagecoaches; two-wheeled vehicles: bicycles, mopeds and motorbikes; light and heavy motorised post and telecommunications vehicles.

Work clothing consisting of postmen’s and wiremen’s uniforms and outfits worn by post office and railway post office staff.

Writing Material and Instruments
Various types of writing material used through history, including replicas of ink pots, pens and quills on loan from other museums.

Weights and Measures
Equipment and devices for measuring time (clocks) and the weight of postal items in order to calculate postage rates.

Machines and Stamping Devices
Calculators and writing machines and other equipment exclusively used by the postal service. Of particular note is the first mechanical mail sorter.

Postal Utensils
Various implements used by the postal service every day.

Related Post

Telecommunications Collections
This section of the museum includes collections featuring artefacts and equipment dating from the 19th century to the present day and document the evolution of the systems and techniques used in telecommunications in Portugal. List of collections below.

Optical/Visual Telegraphy
Equipment for sending coded messages, e.g., primitive sound and visual communication systems, semaphore, signalling lanterns, Chappe telegraph, shutter telegraph, sunshine recorders.

Electrical Telegraphy
Equipment for sending messages, e.g., Morse code, Bréguet, Hughes, Baudot, Fac-Simile, Telex, Videotex, Fax, CORFAC.

Manual telephone terminals: early telephone and private-line terminals, local-battery telephone terminals, central-battery telephone terminals.
Automatic telephone terminals: automatic analogue telephone terminals with rotary and push-button dialling.
Digital telephone terminals: automatic digital telephone terminals, mobile terminals, mobile phones, pagers, satellite video-conferencing equipment.

Radio Communications
TWF equipment, such as: signal handlers, transmitters/receivers, antennas, coherers, reels, valves, and signal generators.

Equipment used to concentrate and forward communications, such as: manual switching centres, Strowger-type and coordinate-selector automatic switching centres, and digital automatic centres.

Equipment used to send telecommunications, broadcasting and TV signals, such as: outdoor equipment and studio equipment.

Power/Electricity Feed/Protection
Generators, feeders, motors, batteries, accumulators, transformers, surge arresters and fuses associated with telecommunications equipment.

Testing and Measuring
Equipment used in testing and measuring electrical and non-electrical quantities.

Computer Equipment
Hardware such as computer terminals, computers, keyboards, printers, modems, scanners and software.

Equipment for transmitting sound and image.

Specific telecommunications-related tools and commonly-used tools.

Art And Philately Collections
This section of the museum includes collections featuring philatelic artefacts dating from the 16th century to the present day and document the history of philately in Portugal. It also contains a parallel collection of art displaying some of the most important figures in the Portuguese visual arts. List of collections below.

Includes stamps from Portugal, the former Portuguese colonies and foreign stamps from member countries of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The collection also features experiments and tests, engraving plates and production stages of Portuguese stamps.

Stamped Paper
Collection consisting of non-illustrated, illustrated, commemorative and greeting stamped paper, postcards, aerogrammes, and postcards.

Original Designs
Original designs by some of the best known Portuguese visual artists for issued and non-issued stamps, stamped cards, first day covers with cachets, wallets and postmarks.

Collection composed by internal, first-day and commemorative postmarks.

Unused Cards
First day covers, covers/commemorative cards, and covers from the former Portuguese colonies and other countries.

Maximum Cards
Portuguese postcards from Macau and other countries.

Medals and Coins
Medals from Portugal, the former Portuguese colonies and other countries. This collection also contains Portuguese and foreign coins.

Certified Diplomas and Awards
Collection consisting of certified diplomas relating to the CTT’s attendance at national and international philately contests and awards for issues of Portuguese stamps.

Items published by the CTT
CTT greeting cards, annual stamp year books (Stamps of Portugal), themed books of stamps, CTT diaries, and advertising material produced over the years.

Art Heritage
Paintings, serigraphs, engravings, lithographs, sculptures, tapestries and stained glass by Portuguese and foreign artists acquired by the CTT and Portuguese Communications Foundation.

Museum Heritage
The origins of the museum’s collection date back to 1878, when the Ministry for Public Works, Trade and Industry issued instructions to the Directorate General of the Postal Services to create a postal museum. Following these instructions, the latter set up the museum and donated its first thirty pieces.

Today, the museum’s heritage includes a valuable collection of artefacts ranging from the 16th century to the present day, including an important collection of stamps from Portugal and almost all of the member countries of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

The museum’s heritage is grouped into large collections to favour its organisation and provide the best conditions for handling, archiving and research.
This heritage is divided into three collections: postal, telecommunications, art and philately.

The museum’s heritage entrusted to the Foundation can be found in:

The Communications Museum’s permanent exhibition “Overcoming Distance: Five Centuries of Communications in Portugal” and temporary exhibitions;

“Overcoming Distance: Five Centuries of Communications in Portugal” is more than a journey through history; it is an exhibition – organised into two parts, one dedicated to the post and the other to telecommunications – on the evolution and improvement in techniques that allowed man to communicate more quickly and efficiently. It is a trek along a journey constructed step by step which reveals the importance of communications in transforming our daily life and in the economic and social development of the community.

House of the Future is a registered trademark of the FPC in which the concept of the future is permanently updated, benefitting from the work undertaken in partnership with different institutions linked to the technological innovation sector with the constant and special mission to disseminate the importance of the communications sector for civil society. New housing concepts and solutions with a major impact on people’s wellbeing are presented. The exhibition accumulates know-how and builds on the knowledge of earlier stages.

Mala-Posta opened in 2004 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the end of the first era of the post rider service (Lisbon to Coimbra, 1798-1804), this exhibition recreates life-size scenarios associated with the transport of mail and people at one of the so-called staging posts at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. The models of the employees and passengers appear to have been frozen in time and liable to return to life at any moment.