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Museum Studies Students Launch Recovery Effort for the National Museum of Brazil

Above: National Museum of Brazil. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images.
Above: National Museum of Brazil. Photograph: Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL—A group of museum studies students at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro have launched a campaign to document the National Museum of Brazil’s twenty-million-piece collection following a devastating fire earlier this month. The effort has so far gathered 14,000 images, videos, written documents, and drawings of works and exhibitions, Dom Phillips reports for The Guardian.

The September 2 fire gutted the National Museum building and destroyed an estimated ninety-percent of its collections. Among the destroyed items are Luzia, the oldest human remains discovered in South America, and significant holdings of African art and Amerindian artifacts. In Brazil, outrage following the blaze has sparked a discussion about the poor state of the country’s cultural institutions and lack of funding for culture and education while projects like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio receive billions of dollars.

“The response shows the importance of the archive—not just a place of research and history, but as a part of people’s lives,” said Luana Santos, one of the museum studies students involved with the recovery. The students are in discussions with their university about how to interpret and display the collected material. Before the fire, the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro was responsible for the museum’s operations and maintaining its collection and had announced it received a $5 million grant to upgrade the museum’s facilities, including it fire safety system.

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September 13, 2018