On Sunday, September 2, Brazil's National Museum, the largest and most important collection of scientific and historical artifacts in Latin America, burned to the ground.
Rio's 200-year-old National Museum, #Brazil’s oldest museum, totally destroyed by massive fire… https://t.co/stTaBhXM8z— Anthony Boadle (@Anthony Boadle)1535936445.0
The museum was founded over two centuries ago and housed around 20 million irreplaceable artifacts.
The building that houses Brazil's National Museum, which has been destroyed in a fire, dates back to 1818 and was p… https://t.co/k7X0Pbuk2K— BNO News (@BNO News)1535936253.0
Brazilian president calls Museu Nacional fire “incalculable loss for Brazil” and “a sad day for all Brazilians.” Th… https://t.co/O1BYoOK2MS— Rachel Glickhouse (@Rachel Glickhouse)1535937136.0
The tragedy seems almost akin to the burning of the library at Alexandria.
The National Museum of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, is the oldest scientific institution in the country. It was fou… https://t.co/i9HSrjTsOx— 🇨🇦 Batman Arkham CIzzy (@🇨🇦 Batman Arkham CIzzy)1535934162.0
The museum was in dire need of maintenance, but many believe there wasn't any money due to Brazillian President Michel Temer, who "has presided over cuts to science and education as part of a wider austerity drive."
There were tons of news stories about how the Museum needed repairs. Lots of exposed wires, things like that. Thes… https://t.co/7VdWnLaP2Z— 🇨🇦 Batman Arkham CIzzy (@🇨🇦 Batman Arkham CIzzy)1535935221.0
Many place the blame for this tragedy squarely at the feet of the Brazilian government.
With the total destruction of Museu Nacional of Rio de Janeiro, a 200-year institution, 20 million artifacts and hi… https://t.co/yPdra7lukG— Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo (@Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo)1535932916.0
The collection of @quaibranly is estimated at 450,000 objects. The @britishmuseum collection is estimated at 8 mill… https://t.co/rwdqc2o47i— Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo (@Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo)1535937222.0
I will not say anything else, but this is proof of how Brazil is incredibly unprepared for absolutely any situation… https://t.co/gCxgOutAOE— Marina Amaral (@Marina Amaral)1535934153.0
Luiz Duarte, a vice-director of the museum, commented to TV Globo:
For many years we fought with different governments to get adequate resources to preserve what is now completely destroyed. My feeling is of total dismay and immense anger.
Sad news for science, culture, and history in Brazil today. This is the end of the celebrations of 200 years of the… https://t.co/qAEWi2f3dq— Bruno Dias (@Bruno Dias)1535934131.0
Though firefighters tried to stop the blaze, they were fighting an uphill battle, once again, due to government negligence:
The two nearest hydrants had no supplies.This is an old building with a lot of flammable material, lots of wood and the documents and the archive itself.
This was Rio’s Museu Nacional before tonight's fire. Reports are that it was entirely destroyed in little more than… https://t.co/3UynBQ7z8Z— Incunabula (@Incunabula)1535936109.0
In an especially ironic twist, Duarte also commented that the museum had just recently closed a deal with the government's development bank, BNDES, for additional funds that would have included a budget for fire safety measures.
another sad and downright infuriating instance where the state's indifference towards culture and history becomes p… https://t.co/ROWXw0h2Y2— vit (@vit)1535932664.0
Many Brazilians see the museum's destruction as a metaphor for the country's current hardships:
...the museum containing their most precious artefacts [sic] has burned down seemingly because there was no money for maintenance of hydrants, yet the city had recently managed to find a huge budget to build a brand new museum of tomorrow.
One of Brazil’s premier history museums, a 200-year-old Rio institution containing 20 million artifacts, is burning… https://t.co/IhJquYXmJ3— Rachel Glickhouse (@Rachel Glickhouse)1535933584.0
Bernard Mello Franco, one of Brazil's best-known columnists, wrote on O Globo:
The tragedy this Sunday is a sort of national suicide. A crime against our past and future generations.