While visiting Tomar this weekend, we at Turzain , came across The Match Museum and we decided to give it a visit . We all travel and go to new restaurants and hotels and we tend to take as souvenirs matchboxes of the places we visit…. But a museum of match boxes? The name intrigued us and we decided to check it out.
The unusual museum is housed in a building adjacent to São Francisco / St Francis Convent ( 17th Century ) in a charming part of Tomar . (We suggest that you take few minutes to visit St Francis Church before proceeding next door to the museum).
As you enter the building from the main street, you come across an enchanting garden that leads to the museum.
A lovely young Portuguese lady , who spoke English fluently greeted us and explained that the collection was started by Senhor Aquilles de Mota Lima in 1953 , a native of Tomar.
The museum , houses about fifty thousand different types of matches , is quaint and compromises of seven medium sized rooms , they are open one to one another , by an arch , see photo . The collection is divided into three periods : 1827 – 18 95 , 1895 – 1910 , 1910 onwards .The collection came from about 122 countries , some still exist and some no more exist , such as the German Democratic Republic.
All boxes are arranged in glass cabinets and cupboards that are labelled with the country of origin . As you enter the first room, you notice an old vintage machine that was used to fix the labels to the boxes.
At the time, Senhor Lima was about 52 years of age and he decided to start the collection after travelling to London for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II . During his stay there, he bought as a souvenir , two match boxes to commemorate the occasion . On his way back to Portugal by boat , he met an American lady who was a collector of match Boxes . They both exchanged ideas and he got fascinated by what he heard and decided to start collecting matchboxes.
His collection grew and he joined several clubs of Match Collectors and decided to house the matches at a room at his home . Later and in 1980 the city of Tomar offered him the rooms at the historic convent of St Francis to display his collection. His daughter, who is in her seventies now , manages the museum.
A person that collects match boxes is called phillumenist , phil = loving and lumen = light . So phillumeny is the name given to the collecting of match boxes . As it was often difficult to collect the boxes because of the size , collectors often collected only the matchbox stamps/ labels that were used on the boxes . By doing that , they saved using lots of space . The hobby was at its height between the sixties and the eighties were the image on the stamp was excellent . However and with the use of new printing methods the quality got poorer and the image became more commercial and less artistic.
The museum ignites one’s fascination to spend hours looking at the different match boxes , the different sizes and shapes and the history behind each Box . It is truly an impressive collection and supposedly the museum in Tomar , hosts the largest collection in Europe.
We thought that it was very enlightening and educational to visit , these labels on the boxes , reflect on important historical events such as the Queens coronation , sports events , historical figures and world events . The Portuguese , Mr Jose Manuel Pereira published several books on the subject.
The use of the internet helped phillumenists from all around the world to connect and exchange information faster and by doing so they helped introduce this hobby to others …. And the circle of collectors widened. Enjoy the photos that we took , hoping that the pictures will encourage you to give this small great museum a visit soon.
While there we took several photos covering few match box cabinets in the museum. All beautifully displayed, arranged and marked and well labelled to show the country of origin of the match box.
While browsing our gallery below, notice the shapes , sizes , countries that these boxes came from ….. Fascinating!
Check out the last photo in particular which shows text in Portuguese on the year , match boxes started to be produced in Portugal
The museum is a true treasure, a great find and seldomly talked about. Highly recommended!
Enjoy the photos and ask us any questions about it in the comments below…