The national museum in Rio De Janeiro, once home to Brazil’s royal family, was gutted by a catastrophic fire on September 2. Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum – much of its inventories – estimated at the volume of 20 million items, was believed to have been destroyed, including some of the region’s oldest human remains and Egyptian mummies.
The fire at the National Museum started shortly after it closed to the public on Sunday. Even if there were no reports of injuries, the loss to Brazilian science, history, and culture was insurmountable.
A skull named Luzia – one of the irreplaceable treasures housed in the Museum, and among the oldest fossils ever found in the Americas, was lost in the fire. The wing also held an Egyptian mummy and displayed the largest meteorite ever discovered in Brazil – one of the few artifacts that officials could confirm had survived.
It has been estimated that as much as 90 percent of its inventories might have been destroyed.
Why did this happen?
The actual cause of the fire is still not known. However, some believe that it might have been ignited by a small paper hot air balloon landing on the roof.
Then again, the timing of the fire couldn’t have been worse. As the fire hydrants failed, the firefighters had to use water from a nearby lake – the museum officials revealed that the institution was underfunded and had been slated for a $5 million upgrade, including its fire prevention system.
Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, the museum’s deputy director, criticised authorities for denying the museum of vital funding while spending lavishly on stadiums to host the World Cup in 2014.
Roberto Leher, a rector of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said it was well-known that the building was vulnerable to fire and in need of extensive repairs. People were protesting for the same.
According to Marcio Martins, a spokesman for the museum, the museum’s budget had fallen from around $130,000 in 2013 to around $84,000 last year.
The protesters gathered outside the museum gates and demanded to see the damage while calling on the government to rebuild the museum and restore its glory. The police held the crowd back with pepper spray, tear gas and batons.