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National Museum in Brazil is Devastated by Fire

The 200-year-old museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, went up in flames last Sunday, September 2 at night after it had already closed. Founded in 1818, the fire was a stark contrast against the void of night, its history crumbling before everyone’s eyes. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but BBC News reports that officials in Brazil are blaming lack of funding as the cause of this disaster. Deputy director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte accused the Brazilian authorities of not providing the attention necessary to the emergency. This was obvious in how expert in fish science, Prof. Paulo Buckup, said that the firefighters were in no position to fight the fire without any of the necessary equipment.

The museum staff, not wanting to only look at the disaster occur, took to save whatever they could from the museum with the help of the soldiers. Prof. Buckup told BBC News  "I feel very sorry for my colleagues, some of whom have worked here for 30 or 40 years. Now all evidence of their work is lost, their lives have lost meaning, too."

The general reaction to this event has been blaming the budget cuts. A budget which would have allowed to have a sprinkler system that was part of their June plan for the museum. However, director Dias Duarte said that it would have only been possible after the elections in October. Katy Watson, BBC South America correspondent, says that not only the museum caught fire, but that this extends as a metaphor of the city and country as a whole going up in flames due to the crisis with its growing violence, economic decline, and political corruption.

The Quinta da Boa Vista National Museum housed over 20 million artifacts, one of them being the 11,000-year-old skeleton of a woman known as "Luzia", the oldest one discovered in Latin America. A collection that, through 200 years, was expanded* through acquisitions, exchanges, expeditions, excavations, and donations were also damaged. The former museum of natural history and anthropology also contained an extensive Ancient Egypt collection, Pre-columbian archeological artifacts, a Brazilian archaeology and heritage collection, a set of 13-century Torah scrolls, and the 5.8-ton Bendegó meteorite.

Years of neglect and lack of funds only helped the fire spread faster, as many of the walls and sculptures could be found with mold and in a terrible state, as well as the various flammable artifacts for research. While there have not been reports of any injuries or deaths, it is estimated that most of the artifacts in the museum were burnt to ashes. It is still unclear what will happen with the employees, researchers, and academics who worked in the museum who watched in horror and with tears the event.


*Wikipedia is currently the only source with this information.


Image Sources: 1, 2

I'm Jennifer. Addicted reader, and lover of books. I'm a full-time college student majoring in English Literature with aspirations of being a professional editor. Among other things. In the meantime, I obsess over books, history, art, and politics. I believe in freedom of speech and reading whatever you want. ?
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