The idea of setting up a museum in the greatest forest on Earth—the Amazon rainforest—brought along with it some questions: How could the visitors really engage in exploration, make the visit their own, and have a transformative experience they would take away with them? With an annual budget of $600,000, Museu da Amazônia (Museum of the Amazon or MUSA) welcomes approximately 40,000 visitors every year, a number that has steadily increased since MUSA opened in 2011.
How do we serve so many on such a small budget? Our museum is the rainforest itself. We spend relatively little for facilities, exhibit design, and maintenance. Our power is what the animals and plants demonstrate to visitors: the importance of the rainforest not only to the many species who live here, but also to the world’s climate and water cycle.
The natural environment of the rainforest is a mosaic, created over thousands of millions of years, that continues to be created, sometimes right in front of our eyes. In this spontaneous and improvised play, the actors—ants, frogs, palm trees, fungi, cicadas—show different spectacles, one after another. They are capable of capturing our attention and admiration without the slightest effort.
Listen to the forest
This is a different museum: visitors enter a lively, dynamic environment, where there is much to see and do, and visitors can decide what they’d like to focus on. MUSA puts the spotlight on the forest’s characters, and adjusts the microphone so that the audience can listen to the forest voice and understand what it wants to say. More than listening and observing, visitors can get involved in the stories and analyze the history of humanity itself.
This is a goal of MUSA: to present the show that manifests itself in the Amazonian rainforest. Located on one side of the Ducke Reserve, a 39-square-mile (100–square-kilometer) area of untouched forest in in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, MUSA occupies a 0.4-square-mile (one-square-kilometer) area of forest. MUSA’s facilities include several attractions: exhibitions, aquariums, a butterfly house, and an archaeology laboratory dedicated to revealing the secrets of the Amazonian cultures—both ancient and still living in the forest.