Installed inside a Victorian-style mansion from 1902, the museum was inaugurated on September 1, 1989, with documents, historical items, library and equipment used in the construction of the first meters of quays. Old telephones, typewriters, ophthalmological apparatus and ship’s lanterns are also included in the collection. The building was initially the residence of the Campania Docks Inspector General, Ismail de Souza and then became an administrative office.
The museum also boasts photos of works by painter Benedicto Calixto, who did many paintings inspired by the old warehouses, where vessels used to berth, and of the Nasmyth a vessel flying the English flag, which on 2 February, 1892, inaugurated the first 260 meters of mooring quays, on the sand today called Valongo.
In the basement visitors can find a four-wheeled cycle built in 1902 – it used to travel on tracks and was used to inspect port works. There is a variety of safety equipment utilized by workers, such as gloves, as well as tools and models.
Some of the main attractions are in the museum’s garden, among them the locomotive Lavoura, built in 1889, used to transport the first stone blocks for the construction of the quays; the launch Igara, from 1926, used for technical visits to the port, and the forepeak of the Ais Giorgis, a vessel that sank in 1974 and remained in the estuary for 25 years before being salvaged. Other relics are the bell that rang out to announce break time and the end of the workday to workers in the twentieth century, and a compass from 1892.