Cultural tragedy hits Latin America as 200-year-old Brazil National Museum is engulfed by fire

Fire engulfed the largest museum in Latin America in the evening hours of September 2. The night skies of Rio were clouded in dense smoke as flames engulfed records of 11,000 years of history.

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Built in the 19th century as Saint Christopher’s royal palace, the Brazil National Museum was the largest museum in Latin America. The museum housed 20 million articles, including the first ever fossil found in Brazil, making this a huge cultural tragedy for Latin America. No lives have been lost, but a fireman was injured while saving an 11,000-year-old skeleton of a Paleo-Indian woman found in the caves of Brazil.

Culture connoisseurs of Brazil are enraged as reports suggest that the fire was a preventable incident resulting from oversights due to budget cuts since 2014. These resulted in the lack of fire prevention facilities and the deteriorated condition of the premises. According to reports, angry protesters are criticising the seeming shortage of funds, given that the city had still ‘recently managed to find a huge budget to build a brand new museum of tomorrow.’

According to reports, 90% of the museum has been destroyed, including the whole of the scientific library section that housed rare works of indigenous languages, many of which no longer have native speakers in the world. Among the invaluable items lost are also Indo-American cultural items of indigenous people, the art of Karajá people, one of the world’s best preserved collections of flying dinosaurs called pterosaurs and innumerable specimens housed in the Arachnology section.

Since its establishment in 1818, the museum narrated 11,000 years of world history. It was well-visited, with over 150,000 people visiting the museum in 2017.


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