The National Museum Of Brazil Has Burned To The Ground, And It's A Loss For All Of Humanity
Historians, curators, caretakers, professors, academics, policemen, firefighters, first-aid teams, and heartbroken citizens watched in pain as the Museu Nacional in Rio, one of the most culturally and historically significant buildings in Latin America, was consumed by flames on the evening of September 2.
An estimate of 20 million artifacts were lost, never to be recovered and seen again.
As of this writing, the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, though no known casualties or injuries have been reported.
While the safeguarding of human lives can be considered a triumph amidst such a tragedy, the loss of irreplaceable and invaluable artifacts that told the story of some of the world's most important civilizations, events, and periods of history is indescribable.
The museum which was founded in the early 19th century by King John VI of Portugal once served as the royal residence of the Portugese royal family and Brazilian imperial clan, and housed millions of documents, paintings, works of art, as well as archeological discoveries from all over the world that dated as early as the 1700s.
Some of the most important artifacts that called this museum home included the oldest human fossil found in Brazil estimated to be 12,000 years old, dinosaur remains, a 5.5-ton meteorite also discovered in Brazil, Egyptian artifacts, and a 200-year-old historical archive. Exhibits on biological anthropology, archeology, ethnology, geology, paleontology, and zoology that attracted thousands of visitors each year have also all been lost.
Assumed to be an accident, the fire is causing great distress to Brazilians, most especially those who personally worked to preserve and share the museum's contents as well as pursued research to contribute to its wealth of knowledge.
Reports state that the museum's staff and supporters had been lobbying for additional resources for years in order to better care for the building and the national treasures it held, but their requests repeatedly fell on deaf ears. Without proper funding, sprinkler systems, fire detectors, and smoke alarms were poorly maintained or no longer functioning.
To rub salt on the wound, firemen from seven different stations who rushed to the scene were unable to control the blaze as the fire hydrants surrounding the area had no water supply and had to wait for water tanks that took water from a nearby lake to arrive. In the end, they were unable to contain the fire, helplessly watching from a distance while the museum slowly turned into rubble and ashes.
Much of the blame is being placed on the city goverment's refusal to prioritize funding its cultural riches and preference to invest in sports facilities and other modern institutions. The mismanagement of funds and persisting corruption are being pinpointed to be two of the greatest causes of the museum being left in despair.
Angry citizens were quick to point out that "football won over culture" in this terrible accident, and are demanding for a change of attitude towards the importance given to Brazil's cultural and historical heritage sites.
Many others from around the world are showing solidarity with heartbroken Brazilians and sending words of sympathy and comfort:
It's not only The National Tragedy, it's The World's Tragedy... ??#BrazilNationalMuseum— Marcus (@Marrioend) September 3, 2018
#BrazilNationalMuseum Loss of life is an everyday occurance. But 200 years of art, culture, history and science...destroyed in a single night. My heart aches and my soul hears the Kami weeping.— SR Brant (@SR_Brant) September 3, 2018
The @IPBES community stands today in #solidarity with the people of #Brazil. The loss of the #MuseoNacional is a thunderous blow to our collective global store of #knowledge and #science #Solidariedade #biodiversity pic.twitter.com/5GK9972ceC— IPBES (@IPBES) September 3, 2018
oh my god im about to cry....as an anthropologist this shit is heartbreaking #MuseoNacional— nic (@sleepychims) September 3, 2018
The museum celebrated its 200th birthday this year. Though most items were lost in the blaze, some objects from varying galleries and exhibitions were saved with the help of museum workers.
The Brazilian President, Michel Temer, who tweeted about the museum fire, has yet to appear in public to formally address the tragedy. He wrote,
Incalculável para o Brasil a perda do acervo do Museu Nacional. Foram perdidos 200 anos de trabalho, pesquisa e conhecimento. O valor p/ nossa história não se pode mensurar, pelos danos ao prédio que abrigou a família real durante o Império. É um dia triste para todos brasileiros— Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) September 3, 2018
(Unforgettable for Brazil is the loss of the collection of the National Museum. 200 years of work, research and knowledge have been lost. The value of our history cannot be measured by the damage to the building that housed the royal family during the Empire. It's a sad day for all Brazilians).
Photos from @larepubblic @sz