Brazil’s 200-Year-Old National Museum Destroyed in Huge Fire

Famed National Museum, Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum, a building that once served as the residence for the Portuguese royal family caught fire on September 2 and much of its archive of 20 million items are believed to have been destroyed.

Rio’s fire chief Colonel Roberto Robaday said the firefighters did not have enough water at first because two hydrants were dry. Water trucks were brought in and water used from a nearby lake.

Preservation director Joao Carlos Nara told Agencia Brazil “Very little will be left. We will have to wait until the firefighters have completed their work here in order to really assess the dimension of it all.”

What did the museum contain?

It was one of the largest museums of natural history and anthropology in the Americas. Its millions of artifacts included fossils, Brazil’s largest meteorite, dinosaur bones and a 12,000-year-old skeleton of a woman known as “Luzia”, the oldest ever discovered in the Americas.

The building was also home to items covering the centuries from the arrival of the Portuguese in the 1500s to the declaration of a republic in 1889. The ethnology collection had unique pieces from the pre-Columbian era and artifacts from indigenous cultures.

Pieces from Greco-Roman times and Egypt were also on display at the museum. Portugal’s royal family transferred the court to the building in 1808 when the country faced with the threat of invasion from Napoleon. The museum was established in 1818, with the aim of promoting scientific research by making its collection available to specialists.

This isn’t good news for Rio de Janeiro, a city in crisis. Growing violence, a deep economic decline and political corruption have combined to make the city a shadow of what it once was. The citizens see the burning of the meseum as a metaphor for the state of things in the city.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.

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