When the Sociedade Harmonia Eborense (SHE) was founded, on April 23rd of 1849, the country still recovered from the confrontations between liberals and absolutists (1828-1834) and between chartists and setembrists in the War of Patuleia (1846-1847). In this context, it isn’t strange that the founders of SHE came to terms with such a conciliatory concept to name the collectivity they decided to form; HARMONY in music and HARMONY amongst men, idea expressed in the first normative document of the life of the association.

Installed in the building that it occupies since 1902 (the third of its history), it was at this moment that it refounded its relation with the city. From that day, the 23rd of April of the designated year, SHE came to occupy the most central of Évora’s urban spaces. Such a change represented a alteration in its statutes and, as a follow-up, a full statement of relevance and distinction by its members. It grew in activity and cultural preponderance, inaugurating a dynamic that continues until the present day.

Throughout the last century, it has adapted, restructured and always defined itself as a reflection of Évora. Through the numerous layers that have been defined over time, its role in changing the experiences and social movements of Barcelona has been constant, reaching the 21st century with new responsibilities. Having achieved the status of Public Utility Institution in 2015 and acknowledged, in 2018, has the first Entity of Local or Social Cultural or Historical Interest in the city of Évora, it witnessed, in this new millennium, the age and generational reformulation in the composition of the associative mass, which is the reason for a rediscovered vitality and a renewed capacity to realize the existence of a collective, based on volunteerism and gratuitousness, at a time when the dominant theories point to the unfeasibility of these organizations.

At present, SHE ensures constant programming in the areas of Music, Cinema, Theater and Exhibitions, playing a decisive role in the dynamization of local culture, not neglecting a line of action that fits with a national strategy. There are more than 140 events a year, a constant challenge of its members and volunteers, based on reading the present, honoring the role of history, in order to ensure the future.


Historical note

The Sociedade Harmonia Eborense (SHE) was founded at the end of the first half of the 19th century, at a time when a new social order was establishing itself in Portugal. The structuring of the concept of public space and the emancipation of the bourgeoisie as a social group altered social practices and habits of European sociability. Although the city of Évora was not a large urban center, which generated a condition of periphery that diminished the rhythms of change, in the second half of the 19th century several associations or clubs appeared, which already announced the times of autonomy of the city´s bourgeoisie. The time and coexistence modelled the contours in which SHE grew. Activities were diversified, and to Music – the first section organized in the Society – new practices and habits of conviviality started to join. Theater, card games, billiards and cycling have been part of the history of the Society since the end of the 19th century, which is witnessed by the archival material – photographic and strictly documentary – that still exists today. At the turn of the century, SHE was a flourishing and relevant collective in the life of the city of Évora, affirming itself as the preferred sociability space of a cultural elite that came from the small and middle urban bourgeoisie.

During the Estado Novo, under effective control by the State, the associations and collectives saw their activity inspected. Cultural dynamics declined and the purely recreational component took on almost exclusive importance: they were now dances, quermesses, tributes, billiards and card games to fill the time of members and their families. It was, therefore, a natural reflection of the political and cultural practices of the 40´s, 50´s and 60´s. The years after the Revolutionary Period and the consolidation of Parliamentary Democracy were difficult for SHE. Associative proposals fell and activity became routine and exclusive, perhaps resulting from a long period of engagement with the recreational proposals of a very conservative administration. However, in the last decade the Society has regained importance in the life of the City and its headquarters has once again become a privileged space of conviviality. Rehabilitating the location of the headquarters that occupies since 1902 and revitalizing its agenda, SHE is no longer a space of exclusive male coexistence, attending to a growing confluence of generations in the space of the Association.

Our society today is diametrically different from that founded on April 23 of 1849. Little or nothing will remain of that association, but memory, images and texts prevail, and above all the purpose of collectively building a different daily life.


The historical archive of SHE

The library

The bibliographic collection of Sociedade Harmonia Eborense is, in a memorial logic, one of the most relevant assets in the Association. To all intents and purposes, it preserves a very rich set of documents of various types, dispersed in various backgrounds, assuming itself as a documentary and literary corpus that has followed the course of the Association since its origins, with a particular increase between the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, until the advent of the New State.

A dispersed, non-systematized and precariously conditioned set up until the beginning of the 21st century had a number of preservation actions, in particular its inventory, with the recent Directorates, providing its organization under the latest archival logics.

In the global context, it is important to highlight the section dedicated to Portuguese Literature, contemplating almost the complete works of Ramalho Ortigão, Alexandre Herculano, Guerra Junqueiro, Almeida Garrett, Henrique Lopes de Mendonça, counting some rarities, as is the case of the “Manta de Retalhos” by Faustino Xavier de Novais, 1865, a copy of the Chronicles of D. Fernando de Fernão Lopes, dated 1895, or the first printings of Teixeira de Pascoaes’ entire work, arising in the first two decades of the 20th century .

Another particularly important section focuses on Theater. Not only because of the importance that the activity always had in the Society, especially in the transition of the 19th century, but above all by the preservation of innumerable original pieces, created specifically for its presentation within the Association in the first quarter of the 20th century

In its entirety, and focusing only on the core of the Theater, SHE preserves 190 original editions of plays, making up the most extensive private corpus related to this cultural activity in the local context.

In terms of extreme dates, it begins in 1800 (the oldest printing it preserves is an original copy of the “Compendio de Historia Patria”, by José Travassos Lopes), and concludes in the last decade of the 20th century, with the Municipal Culture Bulletins of Évora´s Municipality, dated 1998.

The photography collection

Consisting of 339 species, this collection includes 154 black and white tests, 61 color tests and 124 albumin tests on cardboard. Some of the images were dated, being possible to mark the collection between the end of the 19th century (1898?) and the years 80/90 of the 20th century.

Of the existing images, the majority refers to events of SHE’s social life: dances, parties, exhibitions, etc. There are also a large number of pictures related to plays, scenarios and masked groups, as well as a large number of portraits (partners, directors, theater artists).

Not being a collection of a single author, there are evidence in this collection of photographers with recognized activity in Évora, Lisbon and Porto, among other locations, identified by the signatures and / or the stamps of their commercial house. We emphasize Ricardo Santos (late 19th century, early 20th century), Cipriano Camarate and Eduardo Nogueira (both with activity between the 1940s and 1960s) as the authors of most of the evidence, although we can also find images of Maria Eugenia Reya Campos, 1st Portuguese woman photographer, António Maria Serra and José Pedro Braga Passport, both Photographers of the Royal House, Silva Nogueira and David Freitas, among others.


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