On Sunday night, Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio De Janeiro went up in flames causing irreparable damage to 90 percent to the nearly 20 million items in the building, according to CNN. Artifacts spanning over 12,000 years were reduced to ashes including Luzia, the oldest human remains found in the Americas.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, but citizens gathered to help remove remnants from the debris. In recent years, Brazil has struggled economically, and there have been reports of the government failing to pay doctors and police officers. According to a local news report, the museum’s funding fell from R$500,00 to R$54,000 within the past five years. Professors who worked at the historic site collected money to aid in paying for cleaning services to help preserve the building’s artifacts. Despite the history of the building, once the Imperial Palace, there were no measures taken to protect the landmark. At the time of the fire, there were only fire extinguishers and smoke detectors onsite.
President Michel Temer expressed his sorrow over the lost history. “The loss of the National Museum’s collection is insurmountable for Brazil,” he wrote on Twitter. “200 years of work, research and knowledge have 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’s a sad day for all Brazilians.”
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
According to The New York Times, the deputy director of the museum, Cristiana Serejo, revealed that only 10 percent of its entire collection survived the massive flames.
On Monday, protesters gathered outside of the historic building to express their grief not only at the loss of history but also the current state of violence and homelessness in the South American country.
“It’s a moment of intense pain,” said Maurilio Oliveira, a paleoartist at the National Museum of Brazil. ‘We can only hope to recover our history from the ashes. Now, we cry and get to work.”
People rushed to rescue items from Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro after it was hit by a massive fire overnight. pic.twitter.com/6uknzasPy8
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 3, 2018
incredibly sad video from inside Brazil's gutted National Museum — only the meteorites withstood the fire pic.twitter.com/6BoTJqanSd
— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) September 4, 2018