Madeira Ethnographic Museum

Museum in Ribeira Brava (Madeira)

Museu Etnografico Da Madeira, Ribeira Brava, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Paulo SP/ Wikimedia

The Madeira Ethnographic Museum, situated in the Ribeira Brava Municipality, is housed in a historic 17th-century manor. Originally located on old Rua da Bagaceira, this manor was part of the Convent of Santa Clara do Funchal’s extensive properties outside the city of Funchal.

Luís Gonçalves da Silva, a captain in the Ribeira Brava ordinances, acquired the manor. In 1710, he undertook significant renovations, adding an additional floor and constructing a chapel dedicated to São José, leading to the manor being named Solar de São José.

In 1853, José Maria Barreto, the final administrator of the São José estate, transformed the manor into an industrial facility, in partnership with Jorge de Oliveira. This period marked the establishment of an animal-powered sugar cane mill and an alcohol distillery. Later in 1862, they incorporated hydraulic power, adding a wooden driving wheel powered by a levada (an irrigation channel) and a cane mill with three horizontal iron cylinders. By 1868, the facility also housed two grain mills.

In the latter half of the 20th century, specifically in 1974, the property was sold by the heirs of João Romão Teixeira to the General Board of the Autonomous District of Funchal.

The Regional Government of Madeira eventually established the Ethnographic Museum of Madeira in the old brandy mill of Ribeira Brava. This initiative, designed by architect João Francisco Caíres, led to the museum’s inauguration on June 15, 1996.

The museum primarily focuses on researching, documenting, conserving, and promoting elements of traditional Madeiran culture. It places particular emphasis on the social, economic, and cultural dimensions of the Madeira archipelago. Its exhibits are organized thematically, covering areas such as productive activities (including fishing and the production cycles of wine, cereals, and linen), transportation, domestic life (showcasing kitchen and bedroom setups), and traditional commerce (like a typical grocery store).

The Madeira Ethnographic Museum appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Ribeira Brava (Madeira)!

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Visiting Madeira Ethnographic Museum


Tuesday – Friday 09:30 to 17:00;

Sunday – 10:00 to 12:30; 13:30 to 17:30;

Closed Sunday, Monday and Public holidays

Address: Museum of Ethnography, Ribeira Brava, Portugal
Duration: 20 minutes

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