The Portuguese Historical Museum opened on June 7, 1997, just a few days before Portugal Day, which is commemorated on June 10 annually. The museum is one of the major attractions of History San José. In keeping with the theme of the historical park, it depicts life as it was in the Santa Clara Valley (now known as Silicon Valley) at the turn of the 20th century. The Portuguese Historical Museum is a replica of the first permanent império (Chapel to the Holy Spirit) built in San José circa 1915. It was constructed on the present site of the I.E.S. Hall on East Santa Clara Street and U.S. 101.
The império, 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. At the turn of the century, it represented the continuation of celebrated traditions that helped make easier the immigrants’ transition from the old world to the new by maintaining strong bonds to their heritage.
The museum has approximately 3200 square feet of exhibit space on two levels. On the ground floor, the emphasis is on the reconstructed altar that serves as the backdrop for the explanation of the significance of the Holy Ghost celebrations.
Another major showpiece is an etched glass map depicting the Portuguese world. This beautiful piece graces the entrance of the museum, and with its view, visitors are introduced to Portuguese history and culture. Display cases house the ever-changing exhibits on topics such as Life in The Old Country, Coming to America, and Making a Living.
The lower floor hosts rotating exhibits that relive historical events like the 1957 volcanic eruption off the Azorean island of Faial and the exodus of refugees that it spawned. In addition, exhibits such as folklore and Portuguese marching bands show how these traditions continue to be a part of Portuguese-American culture.