O Arquivo Nacional (courtyard) – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
In Portuguese, the word “atrapalhação” means disorder, confusion, and disruption that can pose an impediment to accomplishing something. Unfortunately, it is also the word that most perfectly embodies my experiences in conducting research in Rio thus far. I am not working on a particularly controversial topic, nor am I attempting to study anything that occurred in the past decade. I am conducting research on popular discourse within the 1950s Brazilian press on the African and Asian territories of the Portuguese Ultramar. Despite this, I continue to experience moments of atrapalhação that make me certain there is a hidden camera installed somewhere in the ceilings of Rio libraries, and that I am at the center of a massive practical joke!
A Visit to the Arquivo Nacional (National Archive)
Rio’s Arquivo Nacional is home to hundreds of original documents on the history of Brazil. Unfortunately, it was difficult to determine which documents could be helpful for my project via their website. Searching by keywords seemed to yield either zero or hundreds of results, so I decided to go to the archive and speak to one of its librarians. Before entering the research room, I had to check in with my passport, sign a visitor’s list, and put all of my personal belongings in a locker. No cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, or even computers (unless approved by one of the staff members) were allowed. Once in the research room, I waited in line to speak to a librarian who, though helpful, told me that most of the documents that would be relevant for my topic were held in São Paulo. The others, she proceeded to note, were part of a set of documents that just recently received government clearance for public viewing and that they had not yet arrived. Strike One. She suggested instead that I check out their photo collection from the now defunct Correio de Manhã, a Rio-based daily newspaper published from 1901 to 1974.
I followed her advice and spent the next two hours looking through paper-based catalogues of all the paper’s photos listed by keywords and themes. After making a list of thirty-six files I wanted to see, another librarian told me that I would need to fill out a request form for each of the files. Though I thought it would be a quick process, I was sadly mistaken. The paper request forms asked for my printed name, signature, full address, email, phone number, document number, research number, and the date. After filling out all this information thirty-six times with my borrowed pencil (they do not allow pens), I submitted the forms with a smile on my face, relieved that I could now get down to business. I was wrong. Strike Two.