The Portuguese Geological Survey (1848-1970): History and Scientific Heritage
This project builds on the work initiated with a former project funded by FCT, titled Laying down the Foundation Stone: 19th century Geology in the context of the mining and Metals General Committee and the Geological Survey, POCTI/HCT/37703/2001. It links historical research with archival cataloguing and preservation and its purpose is twofold: without excluding publications of another sort and other activities, the main goal of this project is the publication of a book on the history of the Portuguese Geological, whose provisional title is The Ground Beneath our Feet: the History of the Portuguese Geological Survey (1848-1974), and the continuation of the cataloguing of the archive of the ex- Institute of Geology and Mining, today INETI (National Institute of Engineering, Technology and Innovation), its preventive conservation and the beginning of its digitization.
With the book, we aim at tracing a significant part of the institutional history of geology in Portugal that which refers to the successive commissions and services devoted to the geological reconnaissance of mainland Portugal and of its cartographic representation. Formally linked to central administration, immersed in policies of control over the territory, and given the considerable means involved, constituting one of the first examples of what is now called ‘Big Science’, the study of these institutions shows not only local tensions and contradictions between various political, economic and professional agendas impacting on their efficacy, but also between regions and countries since geological units transcend administrative and national borders. It was in this web of negotiations, consensus and unstable balances that geological surveys, in general, and the Portuguese, in particular, responded to various national and international demands, which makes the publication of its history particularly interesting. The historical period covered in the book enables us to analyze the evolution and fate of an institution, which being simultaneously scientific and part of State bureaucracy lived through a period of political change ranging from a Constitutional Monarchy during the so-called ‘Regeneration’ to the I Republic, and finally the ‘Estado Novo’, the dictatorship.
The book will be written to be accessible to both experts and lay audiences. It will address the historical contexts in which the various incarnations of the Portuguese Geological Survey operated and articulated its different institutional settings, structure, organisation, and budgets with political, economic and professional (geologists and mining engineers) agendas. The scientific production with particular emphasis on cartography will be addressed as maps are complex objects both in terms of scientific content and in materializing tensions between distinct actors, geological cultures and interests. The practices of geology within the institution will be analysed by taking into consideration the international context of the geological sciences, as well as the role played by the survey geologists in the international scene, notably the discussions and negotiations in which they engaged, such as the normalisation of verbal and visual geological language and the production of international geological cartography. Finally, the involvement of common men in geological research, and the perceptions and reactions of different sectors of Portuguese society, such as common people, the elite and policy makers to geological fieldwork, research and mapping will be addressed.
Regarding the archive, we aim at continuing to build up the catalogue of manuscripts already accessible on line and also digitize and make accessible the documents used in the book to be published (personal and institutional correspondence, budgets and payrolls, scientific correspondence with geologists of various countries, fieldwork notebooks, cross sections, drawings of fossils, photographs, maps, scientific publications, etc.). The renewal of the protocol with the Portuguese Geographic Institute (IGP) is also intended, in order to proceed with the digitization of maps, which will add to the collection of 19th century geological maps already digitized in the context of the former project.
In addition, we aim at continuing to accommodate the manuscripts and maps in acid-free cases and restore at least 5 damaged maps belonging to the collection of 19th century Portuguese geological maps, which are in urgent need of intervention given its scientific and historical.