ANNOUNCEMENT: HCRP Museum’s Scientific Library opened in March

Cristina Nogueira
Chief Executive Officer, CulturAge

Cristina Nogueira is a historian and archivist based in Coimbra, Portugal. Under the trademark CulturAge, she develops heritage preservation and curation projects. CulturAge has been collaborating with the Centro de Medicina de Reabilitação da Região Centro – Rovisco Pais (CMRRC-RP) since 2017.

The Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais (HCRP) was established in 1947 in the Cantanhede municipality of Coimbra, Portugal, as a therapeutic village for around 1,000 inpatients. Until 1976, it was the epicenter of the country’s fight against Hansen’s disease. It guaranteed assistance to around 2,800 known Hansen’s disease patients through its internal and external medical and social services.

In addition to assisting patients, the HCRP also had the mission of studying Hansen’s disease, which it pursued through clinical and laboratory practice, participation in congresses on clinical trials, publication of scientific articles, and management of an indispensable library for informed clinical activity. The scientific dynamics that characterized the time as well as the activities of the HCRP were captured in Rovisco Pais: Revista Portuguesa da Disease de Hansen, a journal published between 1962 and 1981. Purchases and gifts from leprologists around the world enriched HCRP’s library, which functioned as a global repository for leprosy-related knowledge and scientific research.

Since 2017, the Centro de Medicina de Reabilitação da Região Centro – Rovisco Pais (CMRRC-RP), with the support of the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF), has been developing projects to safeguard and enhance access to the cultural heritage of the HCRP. The medical library collection was identified early in the process as an important resource for learning about the evolution of health and care sciences from the late 19th through 20th centuries. After the collection was sanitized and organized, the library was relocated to a renovated room. Some periodicals and the main publications of the HCRP — including the journal Rovisco Pais and the patient newspaper Luz — have been scanned and made accessible through the Digital Library section of the library’s webpage.

Collection materials from the HCRP’s former medical library and laboratory total around 4,350 volumes and 740 titles, 51% of which are monographs and 49% of which are periodical publications, mainly scientific magazines and journals. The oldest work, Ensaio Dermosographico ou Succinta e systematica descripção das Doenças Cutaneas (1823), was written by Bernardino António Gomes, a prominent physician who also authored the first modern census of Hansen’s disease patients in Portugal. [Editor’s note: Readers who are interested in Gomes’s monograph can access a scan of the first printing (1820) through Google Books.]

About 40% of the collection’s materials originated outside of Portugal and represent the work of leading authors, associations, and health organizations of the time, especially in the fields of dermatology and leprology. In some cases, the materials are rare and not available in any other collection in Portugal.

The restored collection opened officially under the name Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais Scientific Library in a public ceremony held on March 20. Attendees included Takahiro Nanri, Executive Director of SHF; Suzana Menezes, Cultural Regional Director of the Portuguese Government; Helena Teodósio, Mayor of Cantanhede; and Isabel Bento, President of the Board of Directors of CMRRC-RP.

The Scientific Library contributes to the HCRP Museum’s mission of preserving cultural heritage, and its opening in 2023 feels especially appropriate considering the 150th anniversary of the identification of the leprosy bacillus by Gerhard Hansen.

The Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais Scientific Library, housing restored materials dating from 1823, opened on March 20, 2023.

For further information about the Scientific Library and how to access its resources, please visit