Ulmeiro [Elm tree], which opened in 1969 as a distributor-bookshop, was an emblematic space for the exchange of books and alternative ideas, revealing new Latin American writers, diversified revolutionary theorists, innovative literary currents' poets (beat generation, grupo Árvore, experimental poetry, Angolan poetry, etc.) and several Portuguese authors and others of the most varied fields, from classics to the brand new ones, from songbook to philosophy, plus a handful of talented illustrators and caricaturists (Ana Leão, António Ole, António Pimentel, Carmen, Cristina Reis, Hugo Beja, João Abel Manta, João Carlos Albernaz, José Rodrigues, Lídia Martinez, Lud, Mário Botas, Vasco, Wanda Ramos, etc.).
Having appeared in the midst of Marcelism (Marcelo Caetano's time as head of government), it joined a constellation of cooperatives, bookshops, publishers and cultural-political groups that confronted the Portuguese dictatorship and colonialism and was fuelled by an imagery of resistance and counter-culture. Later, it was also a publisher, gallery, stationery shop and a disco.
It distributed the newspaper Crítica [Criticism] (1971/2), of a new university generation from which emerged Eduarda Dionísio, Luís Miguel Cintra and Jorge Silva Melo, the last two also promoters of the Teatro Ulmeiro [Ulmeiro Theatre] collection. At the turn of the 1980s it launched a periodical linked to the democratization of housing/urbanism and the residents’ movement (Cidade Campo [City Countryside]). It was concerned about offering a quality publication, which it feared was already under threat (hence the magazine title Sobreviver [To Survive], allying itself to groups of the new social themes (ecology, feminism, naturism, antimilitarism, etc.). In addition, it launched a Lusophone cooperation magazine, Três continentes [Three Continents], as an homage to the internationalist Tricontinental (ed. by Émile Copferman at Maspero), that placed forgotten issues on the agenda, such as the self-determination of the people of Timor-Leste.
It has hosted multiple tertulias (social gatherings), beginning with the musical evenings from singers-songwriters and composers of the resistance such as Zeca Afonso, Carlos Paredes, Vitorino and Francisco Fanhais. During the years 1970/80s it promoted the poetry of Galician Manuel María and of Ferlinghetti, an icon of the beat generation, as well as the songs of French anarchist Léo Ferré. It combined the philosophy sessions by Agostinho da Silva and the recitations by Mário Viegas.
It had the lasting mark of José Antunes Ribeiro, engaged with the progressive left (internationalist and revolutionary for part of this editorial adventure) and his production of political essays. This restless and non-conformist bookseller-publisher-poet helped renew the literary publishing, especially with regard to the novel, poetry, theatre, recovery of 'classics' and the literary studies, showcasing parallelly women's writing, trough Hélia Correia, Lídia Martinez, Maria Ondina Braga, Noémia Seixas, Wanda Ramos and others.
Ulmeiro, which has been transformed into Espaço Ulmeiro Associação Cultural [Cultural Association Ulmeiro Space] to be able to continue its activity, turned 50 in 2019 as a bookshop-distributor, an opportune moment to revisit this fearless collective experience that disseminated many ideas and works of Portuguese and universal culture creators.
In this sense, a historical documental exhibition was organised, which took place during the months of May until July 2019 at the cultural centre Fábrica Braço de Prata, in Lisbon, in the Eduardo Prado Coelho and Marguerite Duras rooms. With free access, it was sponsored by this cultural centre, Espaço Ulmeiro Associação Cultural and CHAM – Centre for the Humanities, NOVA-FCSH, among other institutions.
By taking advantage of the survey and research work that underpinned it, it was considered pertinent to keep a more lasting and widespread record of these results by reconfiguring and expanding them as a virtual exhibition. This new output was created in 2020, the year Ulmeiro celebrated its 50 years as a publisher. It again was sponsored by CHAM, NOVA-FCSH, now in partnership with the Digital Humanities Lab of IHC, NOVA-FCSH, which hosts the website on its digital platform on Omeka S.
Apart from the exhibition of these documents on the life of Ulmeiro, the opportunity was taken to make a complete reconstitution of the Ulmeiro bibliographical catalogue and associated publishers (1970-2020), thus allowing direct access to its content and a free search by authors, titles, collections and themes. Complementarily, and for those who wish to deepen their knowledge of Ulmeiro's legacy, a diversified bibliography is provided: texts on Ulmeiro authors or books, testimonials from Ulmeiro authors and publishers, studies on Ulmeiro.
Finally, some photographs of the physical exhibition opening are presented.
This work is funded by national funds through the FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., under the Norma Transitória – DL 57/2016/CP1453/CT0062.
This web publication had the support of CHAM (NOVA FCSH/UAc), through the strategic project sponsored by FCT (UIDB/04666/2020).