An all-consuming and devastating fire has gone through much of Rio de Janeiro's Museu Nacional, or National Museum at about 7:30 pm Sunday.The museum, founded in 1818 is Brazil’s oldest and largest museums in Latin America with a collection of 20 million cultural and scientific artifacts. Among the items lost are Brazilian indigenous language recordings, which are no longer spoken, thus, will never be heard again.
The Museu Nacional's collections include ‘Luzia,’ an 11,500-year-old skull considered one of South America's oldest human fossils, as well as the long-necked dinosaur Maxakalisaurus.
The loss as reported by museum officials id tantamount to incalculable and completely devastating and multiple major news organizations have been reporting on the fire.
“It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America. We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old,” Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum’s vice-directors, told G1 news. Marina Silva, a former environment minister and candidate in October’s presidential elections said the fire was like “a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory”.
Luiz Duarte, another vice-director, told TV Globo: “It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education.”
According to National Geographic, Brazil’s indigenous knowledge also has suffered. “The Museu Nacional housed world-renowned collections of indigenous objects, as well as many audio recordings of indigenous languages from all over Brazil. Some of these recordings, now lost, were of languages that are no longer spoken.”
According to CNN, outrage followed the aftermath as protestors tried to storm the gates following reports that government spending cuts and inadequate maintenance of key infrastructure, including the building's sprinkler system, led to improper containment of the blaze.Police in riot gear used pepper spray to contain the crowd.
Countless have taken to social media to express their sadness and loss.
Vinicius Espíndola, wrote on Twitter:
I spent 10 years of my Life studying fishes at the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. The room that I defended my masters' thesis is destroyed. Many curators' and students life histories were ruined today. The whole world lost something here #MuseuNacional
Camila dos Santos: #MuseuNacional I am completely devastated as a brazilian who also wishes to be a future Anthropologist and Archaeologist.
“The tragedy this Sunday is a sort of national suicide,” wrote Bernard Mello Franco, one of Brazil’s best-known columnists. “A crime against our past and future generations.”