The first work in the field of museology was undertaken in 1994 by an outside team of specialists from a wide range of areas including museology, anthropology and communication design. With the collaboration of the Alcance association, this team carried out research work relating to the River Guadiana and its people, which led to the exhibition of the River “Museum” in the former primary school of Guerreiros do Rio, which opened to the public in November 1994 and was officially opened by The Civil Governor Faro, Mr Cabrita Neto in January 1995.
In 1995 and 1996, the same outside team of specialists, with the collaboration of the Alcance association, carried out research work with the aim of drawing up the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim, known as “Núcleos Museológicos Serranos” (Upland Museum) of the Municipality of Alcoutim, based on the proposal presented by the local authority to “upgrade, preserve and display the wealth of its cultural heritage”.
In accordance with the scientific and museological programme of the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim presented in 1996, four museum were planned for the civil parishes of Pereiro, Giões, Martim Longo and Vaqueiros with their respective themes; the construction of memory as a process of appropriating events; the importance of weaving in the lives of local people; ideas of community, as a space which you leave and to which you return, in a permanent cycle of people and information; lives in the countryside through their objects, local agricultural habits and the way in which this agriculture makes best use of the region’s natural resources. Some of the former primary schools in different parts of the municipality were the buildings chosen to house these museum venues, which were then restored and adapted.
The same outside team of specialists, with the collaboration of Professor Francisco Lameira, was also responsible for planning the museum venue for the Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception in Alcoutim, with the theme of Religious Art. This venue, known as the Religious Art Museum, opened to the public in May 1998, with the exhibition A look at the churches of Alcoutim.
In June 1998, the first museum venue outlined in the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim for the civil parish of Pereiro opened its doors in the former primary school of Fonte Zambujo, with the exhibition The Construction of Memory and it was named the Fonte Zambujo Museum.
The museum venue known as the Archaeology Museum opened to the public in April 2000 with the exhibition The Archaeological Heritage of Alcoutim. This venue, with archaeology as its theme, was planned by the specialists of the local authority for the “Exhibition Room” of Alcoutim Castle, with the aim of publicising, enriching and promoting the Archaeological Heritage of Alcoutim and displaying the archaeological structures that exist there, thereby increasing their value.
In June 2000, two museum venues outlined in the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim opened their doors: one in the civil parish of Martim Longo, in the former primary school of Barrada with the exhibition Espelho de Nós (Mirror of Us), which was named the Barrada Museum; and one in the civil parish of Giões in the former primary school of Farelos, with the exhibition Weaving and Using, which was named the Farelos Museum. The same month, the Santa Justa Museum opened to the public in the former school of Santa Justa, with the exhibition The Primary School; the centre was designed by the specialists of the local authority with the aim of preserving the function of the school buildings and the childhood memories of many of the older members of the population of the municipality of Alcoutim.
It was only in June 2001 that the museum venue presented in the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim for the civil parish of Vaqueiros opened its doors to the public in the former primary school of Vaqueiros, with the exhibition Lives in the Countryside, and it was named the Vaqueiros Museum.
In April 2004, the four museum that were part of the Museological Project of the Municipality of Alcoutim were closed to the public and subsequently dismantled: the Fonte Zambujo, Farelos, Barrada and Vaqueiros Museum.
During the last two decades, Alcoutim Municipality has launched projects that led to a number of exhibition venues, upgraded sites and long-term, temporary and travelling exhibitions; it has also designed buildings with the aim of installing the technical, administrative and managerial services of the municipal museological unit, and adapted/remodelled others that already existed:
On 12th November 2008, Alcoutim Municipal Museum became part of the Algarve Museums Network (RMA). It was part of the Coordinating Group of the RMA from 28th September 2009 to 20th September 2010 and from 29th September 2014 to 7th December 2015. In 2010, it participated in the first regional project carried out by this network, the joint exhibition entitled Algarve – From Kingdom to Region.