CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Jail-Time: Rio de Janeiro’s Civil Police Museum and Displays of State Power

Session 17 Display


This paper examines the establishment of the Civil Police Museum of Rio de Janeiro in 1912. Alternatively known as the Museum of Crime and the Museum of Methodology, this Rio institution reveals the role of objects, and visual culture more broadly, in training a police force, and in building a civic culture that linked collecting and seeing –– with police training. In a meditation that takes up theoretical questions regarding race, museums, and visuality in mid- century Brazil, I specifically explore the relationships between Afro-Brazilian spirituality and the nascent modern nation state. In particular, this paper examines one corpus of objects, a museum within a museum. The “Museum of Black Magic” housed spiritually dynamic candomblé and umbanda objects that were seized from local Rio communities, incarcerated and segregated from other teaching materials for fear of their efficacious nature. By 1938, the Civil Police Museum became Brazil’s earliest institutional collection of Afro-Brazilian heritage, one eventually under the domain of IPHAN. I examine the contradictory ways this collection was understood and preserved in the period, highlighting how police violence and museum preservation are intertwined.



Amy Buono is a Visiting Researcher in the Department of Art History & Theory at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, where she specializes in the visual and material cultures of indigenous Brazil and the Afro-Atlantic world. Three threads weave together her broader research agenda: an interest in the institutional histories of art; an understanding of the technologies of production as crucial to art’s social efficacy; and a commitment to tracing the ritual and rhetorical deployment of art objects. Methodologically, her scholarship intersects with several disciplines, including art history, anthropology, science studies, and museum history and theory. Amy’s research has appeared as chapters and articles in Orientes-Ocidentes (UNAM); The Materiality of Color (Ashgate); Cultural Exchanges;Between Brazil and France (Purdue UP); Images take Flight (Hirmer); Getty Research Journal;and Journal of Art Historiography. Buono has two forthcoming books: a co-edited volume with Bloomsbury Press (with Sven Dupré), The Cultural History of Color in the Renaissance;and her monograph, Tupinambá Feathercraft in the Early Modern Brazilian Atlantic, which examines the relationship between Tupinambá material culture and early modern European discourses on visual culture, science, religion, and politics.