Museu de Artes e Ofícios
A panorama of human ingenuity and creativity is open to the Belo Horizonte traveler at the Museum of Arts and Crafts (Museu de Artes e Ofícios, or MAO), in the historical downtown area.
Over 2,000 pieces from the 18th to 20th century make up the institution's core collection, donated by Angela Gutierrez, founder of the Flávio Gutierrez Cultural Institute - ICFG.
Opened in 2005, the museum occupies two pavilions housed in two historical train stations: Central Station and the Oeste de Minas Station. They're separated by the line now used by the BH subway and its Central Station (Estação Central). A tunnel under the train platforms connects the two pavilions. The location is symbolic in how it places a museum dedicated to the social relations of work in Brazil and tools of the trade in an urban scenario crossed by thousands of people daily.
Outside the main entrance at the front of Central Station is Praça Rui Barbosa, also known as Praça da Estação (Station Square), a vast, open space which hosts some of the city's best events. The creation of the museum has helped spur the revitalization of the square and the surrounding area, which date back to the very origins of Belo Horizonte as a planned city founded in 1897 to be the new capital of Minas Gerais.
On days when there are events on the square, the museum is likely to be closed; check before visiting.
The MAO collection is organized by type of pre-industrial crafts - for example, Wood, Leather, Mining, Spinning and Weaving, Transportation and so on. There are from large objects such as an oxcart and sugar cane mills (water- or animal-driven) to delicate instruments used in precision crafts such as jewelry making, in displays that are likely to interest kids.
In a state known for its dairy - Minas cheese is even listed as intangible heritage - as well as sweets and cachaça, the items used in their making are naturally an important part of the exhibits. Beautifully rustic presses and molds for cheese making, enormous gamelas, or wooden bowls, and small alambiques, or distilling utensils, are some of the objects likely to interest the culinary arts aficionado.
The museum stays open late occasionally for musical performances, in a series called "The Musical Craft". For Portuguese speakers, there are lectures and debates, often with the participation of Brazilian and international authors - one of the guests in 2012 was Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa.
The museum's coffee shop, Café dos Ofícios, is an attractive little spot where to eat pão de queijo and sip on some coffee from Minas Gerais.
In the immediate vicinity of the museum, some of the recommended spots are:
- Casa do Conde de Santa Marinha
- Cultural Center at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
- Santa Tereza Viaduct
- Serraria Souza Pinto
Belotur, the official Belo Horizonte Tourism Bureau, suggests you expand the route to include these attractions grouped under the theme "Crafts of Minas" (Ofícios de Minas):
- Praça Sete
- Palácio das Artes
- Parque Municipal Américo Renê Giannetti
When you're in town, get more tips about sightseeing in BH, in English, at one of these tourist information centers.
Tue and Fri noon - 7 pm
Wed and Thur noon - 9 pm
Sat, Sun and holidays 11 am - 5 pm
Wheelchair-accessible, including restrooms
Free admission Wed and Thur 5 pm - 9 pm and on Sat.