Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil
Address and Contact Info
Address: Av. Rio Branco 219, Rio de Janeiro, RJ CEP20040-008. On the street, it is located in "Cinelândia," which is also the name of the subway stop in the praça across Rio Branco Av. from the Library.
Telephone: 55 21 3095-3879 fax: 55 21 3095 3811
Website: http://www.bn.br/site/ is excellent, in both form and content, as long as you can read Portuguese.
Principal contacts for the collection: Email contact with each of the many sections is through the "Fale Conosco" link on the main page. But first, browse in the electronic catalogs, on the website (see more below).
Hours and Usage Restrictions
General and Periodicals Reading Rooms: Mon.-Fri. 9AM-8PM, last request must be submitted by 7:30PM; Saturday 9AM-3PM, last request by 2:30PM.
Special Collections (Rare Works, Manuscripts, Iconography): Mon.-Fri. 10AM-4PM, last request by 3:30PM. Closed Sundays, national holidays both fixed (such as 7 Sept.-Independence Day, Christmas day, etc.) and movable (such as Carnival, Easter, and Corpus Christi).
All users must check in every day at the entry desk showing ID every time (passport for foreign users), to receive a numbered badge (crachá) that must be worn in a visible place at all times while inside. The crachá has a magnetic spot that, when swiped over the turnstiles into various sections, opens them for one turn. All bags and material except for paper or note cards and pencil(s) (no pens allowed) must be stored in a lock box upon entry--user keeps the key while inside.
Laptop computers MAY be taken into the reading rooms for use in note taking, by the following procedure: The first time at the entry desk, inform the clerk you want to use your computer to take notes. You will receive an application form to fill out, including a description of the computer. Take the form (but not yet the laptop) into the reading room you intend to use (serials to the left, main book reading room to the right) and submit it at the info desk for approval by the Section Head or person delegated to do so. Take the signed form back to the locker area and retrieve your computer, and reenter the user area where the guard will ask to see both the computer and the form--keep the form with the machine, as the guard will ask you for the form when you leave. This may seem cumbersome, but it is intended to reduce the possibility that someone might leave with someone else's computer. The form will be dated for the duration of your research stay, so keep it with you to avoid having to go through the approval procedure again. Never leave your computer unattended, even to go to the rest room; keep it in your possession at all times. You will usually be able to find a place to plug in your computer's power cord--no charge for the electricity. Rio voltage is 115v, compatible with US-voltage equipment. US-style flat two-pronged plugs will often work in Brazilian outlets, but round two-pronged outlets are standard. If all you have is a three-pronged (grounded) plug, you will need an adaptor, available in many Brazilian stores, including supermarkets, Lojas Americanas, or hardware stores.
NO borrowing of anything--all use is onsite. Also NO use of cameras, NO photocopying service, and NO reader-printers for film, only readers. Copies of material on microfilm may be purchased by the entire roll, or selected frames may be reproduced by a digitizing service. But this service is both time-consuming (submit your order and wait a week or more for pickup), and quite expensive. Be prepared to take notes.
Most of the periodicals collection is on microfilm, and nothing that is available on film may be consulted in hard copy.
As of late 2007 most of the film readers had seen much use, glass lens plates are often scratched, and most are not motorized. For some you need to request a crank at the info desk for rewinding. Get there early and try different readers until you find one you can live with. There are -+ 25 readers of various types and conditions. By late morning most are in use, through the rest of the day.
Most newspapers (on film) are in the main periodicals room, but some others are in "obras raras" on the 4th floor, which closes at 4PM and does not open on Saturdays. There are fewer readers there, and several, as of late 2007, were in disrepair.
Online Catalogs and Finding Aids
Full access to all e-catalogs is available via the website. Do your catalog searches before departure for Brazil, and save loads of time, and learning how to use them beforehand will save time once you are onsite. The same e-catalogs are accessible via monitors in both main reading rooms. Some older catalogs are available on paper card files, but they were apparently transferred fairly completely to the e-versions.
The BN began with the library João VI brought from Portugal in 1808, and has been accumulating items since that time. It is supposed to function similar to the US Library of Congress, as a repository of record for all publications in Brazil, but due to variable acquisitions policies and even more variable budgetary situations over the past two centuries, the collection is not "complete." Still, it is the place to start looking for published books, and has the most complete serials (newspaper and magazine) collection for Brazilian materials in Brazil. It is possible, however, that material not in the BN might be found at other locations in Brazil.
The Iconography section has considerable repository of images in various media. The Manuscript section seems to have whatever happened to fall in the hands of the BN over the years, and does not function as an archival repository (that has been left to the Arquivo Nacional, the Arquivo da Cidade, and other specialized collections not located in the BN).
Suggestions for approaching the material:
Although some of the staff may be more accommodating than others, most will be fairly knowledgeable regarding their section and how to use it. Personalism is important: be friendly and you will usually get friendly assistance in return. Don't hesitate to ask questions, including any uncertainty that might arise in filling out the request form that must be submitted to the staff to retrieve any item for use. In the main reading room you will be assigned to an individually numbered small desk, to which the items you request will be delivered. That might take a while. To reduce down time between items, request the second a while before you are through with the first, to give the staff time to find and deliver it.
Housing and getting by for less in the area:
Many (most) visiting researchers will probably find housing somewhere in the Zona Sul (Botafogo, Copacabana, etc.), and there are not many lodging options near the BN. One exception, which I have personally used several times for short-term stays, is the Hotel Othon Aeroporto, on Av. Beira Mar across from Santos Dumont airport. It is a quick 4 blocks or so from the BN, and is reasonable as Rio hotels go--not fancy but in a safe area, both the hotel and the walk to and from the BN. It dates from the 1940s, but has recently been mostly refurbished. Other hotels on the streets in Cinelândia, behind the praça, rent rooms mostly to couples "by the hour" and should be avoided.
Wherever one sleeps, it helps to be near a subway (Metrô) station, which will get you to the BN ("Cinelândia" station) efficiently and cheaply.
There is a snack bar inside the turnstiles in the BN where snacks (salgados) and drinks can do for a US-style (small) lunch. For other meals, lunch or dinner, researchers often find one another at the Amarelinho restaurant across the Praça, or the other two restaurants in that location, which specialize in traditional Brazilian restaurant fare, including feijoada on Saturday, and/or pizza (also quite Brazilian).
More generally, the BN, a magnificent Edwardian-era building in itself, is in a very good location for historians. The praça (formally named for Floriano Peixoto, the "Iron Marshall") has the BN on one side, the neo-classical City Hall on the other, the Teatro Municipal (think Paris Opera, in slightly reduced scale) at one end, and the Museum of Fine Arts on one corner, next to the BN. The Obelisk where Getúlio Vargas's supporters hitched their horses in 1930 is at the other end. Two blocks down rua 13 de Maio is the largo da Carioca. . . and the rest of historic center of the city beyond that.
Fellowships and Funding Opportunities
None that I know of that are sponsored by or available through the BN.
Major Topic Areas