September 4, 2018

Rio's National Museum, Home to 20 Million Artifacts, Goes Up in Flames

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL—Rio de Janeiro’s iconic National Museum of Brazil—which turned two hundred years old this June—went up in flames tonight, turning over twenty million historical objects into ash. The museum, which can be likened to Brazil’s version of the Museum of Natural History in New York and the country’s oldest scientific institution, had fallen on hard times recently due to the city’s shaky economy. No injuries have been reported so far, and authorities do not yet know the reason for the conflagration, which is still being extinguished by firefighters, according to the Estado de Sao Paulo.

The blaze is the latest setback for a city already struggling with economic decline and widespread political corruption after hosting the 2016 Olympics. It’s likely that the institution, which has seen a recent plunge in attendance amid the city’s overall touristic decline, had no mechanisms in place for quelling the fire. Employees had allegedly expressed worry about funding cuts and the neglected state of the bulding.

The museum’s expansive collection included what are largely considered the most important anthropological and ethnographical records concerning Brazil, some of the first fossils found in the country, ancient Egyptian mummies, one of Brazil’s largest scientific libraries, Greco-Roman art, and the most extensive numismatic collection in Latin America. Luiza, one of the oldest human skeletons discovered in Latin America, also resided in the museum.

President Michel Temer said that it was a ”sad day for all Brazilians,“ and added, ”The value of our history cannot be measured by the damage to the building.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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