The theatre being, in its deepest essence, the art of the ephemeral, how is it possible for a Theatre Museum to exist? If it is not possible for a Theatre Museum to exist, it is possible to create a Museum in which the theatre is present, which collects the theatrical vestiges of various periods.
It will be through the vestiges left by all these people of the theatre, such varied mementos as photographs or costumes, stage props or programmes, a stage model, or an entrance ticket, a record or a music sheet, that one can recapture perhaps not theatre itself, for that it but a fleeting moment, but the atmosphere which surrounds the theatre, the way in which it was presented and represented in each period, before a society that was itself in a permanent state of flux.
The idea of creating a Theatre Museum arose at the beginning of the century, with Sousa Bastos leading the way.

The direction of the stage workers’ union called "Sindicato dos Trabalhadores do Espectáculo", decided to hand over to the Government in March 1976, various "theatre mementos" that were in the process of deteriorating on their minute premises, on condition that a Theatre Museum was created.

Shortly afterwards, due to great enthusiasm and understanding on the part of the actress Maria Helena Matos, who was part of the theatrical union’s direction, all this material composed of hundred of photographs, some in a severely damaged state and considered irretrievable, as well as documents referring not just to the history of the union in Portugal, as well as portraying the activity of Portuguese theatre up until circa 1940, was housed in the recently inaugurated National Costume Museum - Museu Nacional do Trajo – and received with warmth by its director Natália Correia Guedes.

Vítor Pavão dos Santos, in charge of sorting this material, and after giving the matter careful thought and becoming familiar with how foreign theatre museums were organised, elaborated an initial project for the museum, in which he proposed the launching of an exhibition on the theatre company whose activity covered the most brilliant period in Portuguese theatre: a "Companhia Rosas & Brasão" (1880 – 1898).

   Capa do catálogo da exposição 'Gente de palco'Traje usado por Milú na revista 'Lisboa acordou', Teatro Monumental, 1975Cartaz do Salão Foz, [19--]Traje usado pelo actor Eduardo Brasão em 'A ceia dos cardeais', Companhia Rosas e Brasão, Teatro D. Amélia, 1902. Autoria Carlos CohenPormenor do traje usado por Eduardo Brasão no espectáculo 'Kean', Companhia Rosas e Brasão, Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, 1892.  Autoria de Carlos CohenRetrato a óleo de Lucinda Simões.  Autoria de José Carlos GalhardoPostal-anúncio com Maria Matos no filme 'Varanda dos rouxinois', 1939

On the 17th of April 1978, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Dr. António Reis, agreed with the proposal presented, and consequently the necessary material was put together to document this already somewhat distant period, but was which was decisive for the evolution of the theatre in Portugal. The organization of the exhibition was taking place when, on the 17th of July 1978, an important event took place. Amélia Rey Colaço was appointed consultant to the future museum. A close collaboration began which became closer as time went on, and remained until in April 1984, due to unfortunate and misguided bureaucratic problems, the Museum was forced to forego the collaboration of its illustrious consultant.
The theatre company "Companhia Rosas & Brasão (1880 – 1998)" exhibition opened at the National Costume Museum in 1979, designed by José Maria da Cruz de Carvalho. Some elements of that museum took part in the setting up of the exhibition and the exhibition proved that, despite what has been lost, it was still possible to recreate a brilliant era of the theatre, after one hundred years had passed.

  Fotografia da 'transformação' do arruinado Palácio do Monteiro-Môr em Museu Nacional do TeatroFotografia do edifício central do Museu Nacional do TeatroFotografia de Glória Machado e Maria Helena Raposo, apoio técnicoFotografia de Glória Ribeiro e Alzira Crispim, conservação e restauro de têxteis e guarda-roupa

Enjoying during some time the hospitality of the National Costume Museum, until it was transferred to a small building in the Monteiro Mor Park, the National Theatre Museum concentrated on two main activities: the recuperation of the Monteiro Mor Palace and the constitution of the museum’s collections. This process will always be a continuing one, since many donations and collections, including some by the State, are still expected and many gaps remain to be filled.
Created officially by Decree-Law n¼ 241/82 dated 22nd of June, the National Theatre Museum always struggling given the lack of staff, for it personnel could not yet be appointed due to legal impediments. Nevertheless, it managed to organise the work thanks to a very cohesive team, that it has not always been possible to keep.
This is, therefore, a broad outline of the history of the National Theatre Museum which opened to the public, after a difficult period, with an exhibition which meant to show its collections in their various facets, simply entitled "Stage People".