The world is in mourning: 200 years of history burned in the National Museum of Brazil

On the night of September 2, the National Museum of Brazil was consumed by flames and with it 200 years of knowledge and history

El mundo está de luto: 200 años de historia quemados en el Museo Nacional de Brasil

A cultural tragedy occurred on the night of Sunday, September 2, which has the world in mourning. At 19:30 (22:30 GMT), the National Museum of Brazil, located in Rio de Janeiro, began to be consumed by flames and with it approximately 90% of a collection of more than 20 million pieces of incalculable historical value.

Leer en español: El mundo está de luto: 200 años de historia quemados en el Museo Nacional de Brasil

The fire destroyed 200 years of knowledge that would encompass different "areas of science, such as Zoology, Archeology, Ethnology, Geology, Paleontology and Biological Anthropology", according to its website. "Perhaps 10% was saved," said Cristiana Serejo, deputy director of the museum, at a press conference.

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Why is the National Museum so important for culture?

The National Museum is the oldest exhibition of Natural History and Anthropology in the country and the largest in Latin America, as well as one of the "most important scientific institutions in the world", according to an official statement published on Facebook. This museum housed the oldest human fossil found in Brazil known as Luzia, the largest Egyptian collection in Latin America which was "acquired by Emperor Dom Pedro I" and a collection of pre-Columbian mummies.

It also had on display a collection of Greco-Roman art and artifacts that belonged to Empress Teresa Cristina, a collection of dinosaur bones and a collection of Brazilian indigenous ethnology. In addition, "in its facilities was the largest scientific library in Rio de Janeiro," according to the BBC.

Hence the importance of this space created in 1818 by King John VI of Portugal with the aim of producing and disseminating knowledge, which was reduced to rubble and ashes as a result of indifference and abandonment. A place that kept not only the historical and cultural heritage of Brazil but also other parts of the world.

The Minister of Culture, Sergio Sá Leitao, explained that this is the result of years of negligence because apparently, the National Museum had been suffering for years lack of funds, which finally condemned it. "Let that serve as an alert so that tragedies like that do not repeat themselves in other museums and other institutions," declared Sá Leitao.


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This is undoubtedly a huge loss for both Brazilians and the planet, which is comparable to other similar cultural disasters, such as the destruction of the library of Alexandria or even the Mayan codices during the Spanish conquest. According to El País, "a British journalist said that it is as if Buckingham Palace and the British Museum had been burned at the same time".

The destruction of the objects that were in the National Museum represents the destruction of the historical memory of an entire nation and even of humanity itself. A historical memory that with the passage of time was building the cultural identity of Brazil and which will never return. These are years of irreplaceable research and knowledge that have been lost, which has generated great unease worldwide.

According to a statement from the National Museum, it is still not possible to confirm what was saved and what was lost during the fire. Until now, only the collection of invertebrates, the central library, most of the collection of vertebrates, the herbarium collection and the conservation and restoration laboratory are safe.

LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal

Translated from " El mundo está de luto: 200 años de historia quemados en el Museo Nacional de Brasil"

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