Brazil Museum Fire Destroys Irreplaceable Artifacts
A huge fire at Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro this weekend destroyed about 20 million items. The museum was one of the largest natural history museums in Latin America. Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, a museum official, said that anything held in the main building was probably destroyed. No one was reported injured in the fire.
It is not clear how the fire began. According to local reports, the fire started after the museum had closed to visitors for the day. Some are saying that years of government neglect left the museum underfunded and unsafe. The institution had recently secured approval for nearly $5 million for a planned renovation, including an upgrade of the fire-prevention system.
The massive blaze turned the historic and scientific artifacts to ashes. Among the items lost were audio recordings of indigenous languages that are no longer spoken. It’s not clear whether any of the material was digitized. Many priceless artifacts on loan from Egypt were also reportedly destroyed.
Scientists said some of the National Museum’s items may have withstood the fire, including some of the metal cabinets containing fossils and some of the mollusk specimens. The Bendegó meteorite, the largest ever found in Brazil, also survived the fire. Found near the town of Monte Santo in the Brazilian state of Bahia in 1784, the space rock weighs approximately 11,600 pounds and is made up iron and nickel. The fire didn’t reach an annex on the site where vertebrate specimens were housed, but the electricity failed, threatening some artifacts.
The museum, considered a national treasure, held its 200th anniversary this year. The president of Brazil, Michel Temer, has called for the museum to be rebuilt using private and public money. French and Egyptian officials already have offered help and UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, has offered financial and technical assistance.