The museum is a joint project of History San José and the Portuguese Heritage Society of California and features stories of Portuguese culture in Santa Clara Valley.
The Imperio consists of approximately 3200 square feet of exhibit space on the ground floor and basement. The reconstructed Imperio altar is the focus of the ground floor exhibit, a backdrop for the explanation of the significance of the Holy Ghost celebrations. An etched glass map depicting the Portuguese world graces the building entrance; through its view, visitors are introduced to Portuguese history and culture. Handcrafted natural wood cases house current exhibits.
The computerized Family Album is the other main attraction on the ground floor. Here are recorded the family histories of thousands of immigrants and their families who have contributed to the development of California. This online archive will be constantly updated so that it will become a contemporary chronicle of the lives of today’s immigrants as they continue to shape the communities in which they live. Visitors will be able to look up the lives of relatives and friends, see their pictures, read their diaries, see maps and pictures of the places from whence they came, and read their exciting stories as they struggled to make a life for themselves and their descendants.
History of The Imperio
The Imperio is a replica of the first permanent imperio built in San José, circa 1915, on the present site of the I.E.S. Hall on East Santa Clara Street and U.S. 101. The Imperio, like many of its counterparts in the Azores, was built to honor the Holy Spirit. It also served as the center of much social and religious activity. To San José immigrants at the turn of the century, the Imperio represented the continuation of celebrated traditions, easing the transition from the old world to the new by maintaining strong bonds to their heritage.
The Imperio replica was dedicated on June 7, 1997, as part of the first annual Portuguese Festival. The centerpiece of the Imperio’s plaza, dedicated on November 3, 2001, is a 19-foot granite replica of the 130-foot diameter Compass Rose, A Rosa os Ventos, located at the Plaza of the Coveries in Lisbon.
The Portuguese Historical Museum at the Imperio is featured in the History Park Tour and Immigration: What’s Your Story?School Tours.