The campus of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro is the setting of major architectural structures from various eras, especially from 1904 through 1960.
The first buildings of what was originally called the Federal Serum Therapy Institute and later the Oswaldo Cruz Institute were erected between 1904 and 1919. They form what is known as the eclectic ensemble, which was designated a heritage site by Brazil’s National Institute for Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) in 1981. More buildings were added in the 1940s and 1950s as the institute expanded its activities. These constitute the modernist ensemble, which includes two structures that were designated historic landmarks by the Rio de Janeiro State Institute for Cultural Heritage (INEPAC) in 2001.
Since the 1980s, Fiocruz, through the Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, has worked to preserve, conserve, and restore these buildings, which together form the Manguinhos Historical Architectural Nucleus (NAHM), a unique component of Brazil’s cultural heritage in health and science.
After Oswaldo Cruz’s death on February 11, 1917, Carlos Chagas, his successor as director of the Manguinhos Institute, turned the scientist’s office into a place of remembrance. His personal belongings, work materials, private library, and assorted documents formed a kind of shrine—not unlike what happened with Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, who were paid similar posthumous tributes at their research institutes in Europe.
Over time, more items were added to this personal collection: equipment and instruments used in the technical and scientific work carried out at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, testaments to the history of the biomedical sciences in Brazil. This material eventually went into forming the Oswaldo Cruz Museum, which has grown bit by bit as family members and businesses have donated further items and as more material has come from the institute itself.
When the Casa de Oswaldo Cruz was established in 1986, part of the collection was transferred to the Archives and the Library. At present, the three-dimensional objects that were part of Cruz’s personal collection are in the custody of the Museum of Life Department at the Casa de Oswaldo Cruz.
The Oswaldo Cruz Personal Archives (Memory of the World UNESCO) hold a trove of outgoing and incoming correspondence, including letters, telegrams, postcards, and notes that Cruz exchanged with his wife and children as well as with Brazilian and foreign scientists. All told, there are some 2,000 items covering nearly three decades of his life (1889-1916). They are divided into Personal Correspondence, Scientific Correspondence, and Political and Administrative Correspondence and sub-divided into dossiers by topic and by correspondent.
The sample of 200 items accessible here follows the same classification and constitutes a faithful cross-representation of the original set. The samples reflect pertinent facets not only of Cruz’s private life but also of his professional and public lives. The lines of the latter in fact often seem to blur with the very directions of Brazilian society in the early twentieth century, with Cruz as a key actor.