Open to the public since 1985, the National Theatre Museum - Museu Nacional do Teatro – is already part of the exclusive circuit of great Portuguese museums, given that it is a "national" museum with exclusive collections, and also because of its development in the field of museology throughout the last years, defined by the series of exhibitions held and the published. These have merited the faithful attendance of a growing segment of the public.
Due to their ephemeral and heterogeneous nature, the scenic and stage arts are difficult to fit into the more orthodox methods of classical museology. A meeting point for all the arts (Almada referred to the theatre as the "showcase for all the arts"), the theatre and the scenic arts are the product of the recurring coming together of multiple talents and creative capacities – writing drama, music, choreography, the fine arts, light and image, etc..
If the fine arts can be seen in their essence as the "art of manufacturing", one that can do without the direct contact between the artist and the public, the reality of the theatrical arts is, from that point of view much more complex. The theatrical arts are, by their very nature, the "arts of doing", expressed by the creation of situations (scenes), in a particular space and time. These are unique, ephemeral. It is, therefore, difficult for any institution, whose objective is to preserve and transmit this art for future generations to pin it down.
The major question that arises (and the greatest challenge) at present, is to know how a museum can manage this set of contradictions, while always preserving before its public the true nature of the arts of the theatre.
New trends in museology emphasise the educational role of museums. If, as already mentioned, the theatrical arts practically encompass all the other arts, a theatre museum has the potential for becoming a privileged space, unique in its capacity for combining all these art forms. This confluence of various areas of knowledge can generate new forms of informal learning, a new public and a play an important role in the generation of young creative artists.
The National Theatre Museum has presented, since its creation in 1985 up until the 18th of May 2001 (opening date of the exhibition "A Youth called Mário Viegas"), 19 exhibitions, 15 of which on the two floors of the main building (Monteiro Mor Palace), and 4 in the temporary exhibition gallery.
Outside its premises, either individually or in collaboration with other institutions, the National Theatre Museum presented, organised, collaborated and participated in dozens of exhibitions throughout the country, as well as in Madrid and Paris.
At present and until September, the museum continues to show the exhibition "A Youth called Mário Viegas", dedicated to that great actor. The great interest shown by the different segments of the public for the exhibition has justified its extension.