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Inferno engulfs Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum

Posted September. 05, 2018 07:25,   

Updated September. 05, 2018 07:25


On Monday morning, charred pieces of paper rained down from the sky in a town around 1.6 kilometers away from the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. They were the debris from burned documents, thrown aloft by the inferno that engulfed the museum on Sunday night. The Brazilian publication G1 reported that “some still flecked in notes or illustrations.”

The cause of the fire is not yet known. Around 90 percent of some 20 million pieces of history housed by the 200-year-old museum, including Egyptian mummies and the reconstructed skeleton of a Maxakalisaurus, may have been destroyed. “Some of the metal cabinets containing fossils may have withstood the fire, though it’s unclear whether the fossils inside survived,” said an official from the museum. AP reported that “the only item that appeared to have survived was a chunk of meteorite.”

With the two hydrants nearest the museum found to have been dry, delaying efforts to douse the flames, the Brazilian government is facing mounting criticism over the slashed spending on science, culture, and education last year. Since 2014, the National Museum of Brazil has not received its full annual budget of 128,000 U.S. dollars (around 140 million won). Even curators had to take matters into their own hands and crowdfund repairs. This year, it received a paltry 13,000 dollars. Over the past three years, the museum was forced to close its doors temporarily because it could no longer pay its cleaning and security staff.

Though the government announced a plan to restore the museum building, Brazilian ichthyologist Ruiz Rocha said that “the importance of the collections that were lost couldn’t be overstated” in an interview with National Geographic.

Taek Kyoon Sohn sohn@donga.com