Last night, Brazil’s National Museum caught fire, resulting in massive destruction. It has not been determined how the fire started, but the museum was engulfed in flames in a matter of hours. Photos of the disaster have been posted online, and historians around the world are mourning the loss of the building and its exhibits.
Some of the collections were over 100 years old and included dinosaurs, fossils, a 1784 meteorite, and Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts. The oldest skeleton in the Americas, a 12,000-year-old specimen named “Luzia,” was lost as well.
According to Fox News, many of those in charge of the museum are distraught over this tragedy. Vice-director Luiz Duarte gave a statement about the loss, saying:
“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.”
A candidate of the October elections, Marina Silva, commented on the disaster, calling it a “lobotomy of the Brazilian memory.” Many are agreeing with this sentiment, stating that the losses are irreparable and will be felt for centuries to come. We have limited evidence of Earth’s past, and failing to preserve these artifacts is a terrible tragedy.
Incalculável para o Brasil a perda do acervo do Museu Nacional. Foram perdidos 200 anos de trabalho, pesquisa e conhecimento. O valor p/ nossa história não se pode mensurar, pelos danos ao prédio que abrigou a família real durante o Império. É um dia triste para todos brasileiros— Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) September 3, 2018
The current president of Brazil, Michel Temer, commented about the museum’s destruction on Twitter. While the original tweet is in Portuguese, the translation reads the following:
“The loss of the collection of the National Museum is unforgettable for Brazil. 200 years of work, research, and knowledge has been lost. The value of our history cannot be measured by the damage to the building that housed the royal family during the Empire. It is a sad day for all Brazilians.”
Many of those that presided over the museum have received Temer’s words with a grain of salt, as he was the one who cut funding to education and the sciences. According to the Guardian, Duarte considers the situation a “terrible irony.”
“For many years we fought with different governments to get adequate resources to preserve what is now completely destroyed,” he said.
Many Brazilians are agreeing with this, saying that the tragedy reflects Brazil’s current deterioration. Recession and violence plague the country, and the loss of the museum is another reflection of the traumas citizens are experiencing.
“The tragedy this Sunday is a sort of national suicide. A crime against our past and future generations,” famed columnist Bernardo Mello Franco wrote on the newspaper site O Globo.