Without memory, the future cannot be built

At the time of the transfer to its new headquarters, in the campus of the University of São Paulo (USP), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC in ) left behind, at its old building in Ibirapuera Park, dozens of packages and boxes, many of which had never been opened. Basically, it was material donated by painters and other persons connected with the plastic arts. To be opened, this material had to wait for the arrival of a grant f R$ 172,600, an investment from FAPESP’s Infrastructure Program. There hand simply been no money, before, to deal with the material and to preserve it properly. It was worth it.

Documents, posters, personal objects and other material from many modern Brazilian artists have significantly enriched the museum’s collection.Throughout the state of São Paulo, the grant from FAPESP’s Infrastructure Program has been causing a revolution in libraries, museums and archives. That is no exaggeration. Documents, some of them several centuries old, have been restored and can be browsed through the Internet. Rooms where bare wires used to run between books of the highest value, with a considerable fire hazard , have been restored. Areas have been acclimatized, to protect the material and for the greater comfort of members of staff and users. Electronic gates help to safeguard the collection. In MAC itself, where precious works of Modigliani and Picasso used to be separated from the street by just a glass door, security has been reinforced.

This revolution is even more significant, because it has coincided with an enormous transformation in the very concepts of library, museum and archives, brought by information technology and by the Internet. A library today is not just a place to keep books and other documents. It is a gateway to information, and librarians and other members of staff are taking course after course to adapt to the new situation. Researchers can now carry out their consultations through the networks in their university, rooms, or laboratories. And the librarians, in turn, are getting ready to give them guidance, using the wealth of information on the Internet.

The origin of all this transformation is, without any hint of doubt, the Program of Support for Infrastructure, which has already invested R$ 84 million in the libraries, archives and museums of the state of São Paulo. The recognition of the need for the recovery and modernization of the libraries arose with Infra II, in 1996, which created a specific module for projects of this nature: it received 199 requests for assistance, of which 147 were approved, with investments of R$ 17.8 million. Infra III has received, for this module, 243 applications, approved 193, and released investments of R$ 22.2 million.

Infra IV, of 1998, finally incorporated museums and archives, with FAPESP’s understanding that they are fundamental in their role of supporting research, when they themselves are not doing important research. In this stage, the library module has received 263 applications for investments, of which 170 were approved, with funds of R$ 24.8 million. The module referring to museums had 57 applications, 38 of which approved, with investments totaling R$ 8.3 million. The module relating to archives received 112 requests for assistance, of which 51 were approved, which meant investments of R$ 11 million. Infra V, for which the applications for assistance are still being assessed, joined together the three modules into one: the storage centers of information and documentation. In the following pages, get to know a bit of history that has revolutionized research in São Paulo.