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The Museu Nacional fire Posted by on Sep 9, 2018 in Brazilian News, Culture, History, Learning

Saudações a todos. Greetings to all.

Museus (museums) are said to be edifícios (buildings) designed to store works of art or objects of cultural and historical interest to the public. If that is so, Brazil started out this semana (week) culturally impoverished after the incêndio (fire) that took place in the Museu Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro.

Museu Nacional (photo by Johny W. Alves [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the casa (house) of Brazil’s royal family back in colonial times, the Museu Nacional was the residence of an invaluable acervo (collection), as well as an important center of pesquisa e estudos (research and study). Infelizmente (unfortunately), however, as much as 90% of   the 20 millions items composing this collection was entirely perdido (lost), among which there were fossils, indigenous artifacts, insects, Egyptian and Greek art and many others, even a meteorite or the 12,000 year-old skull of a woman who lived in this territory. In addition, of course, to the historic building consumed by the chamas (flames). The 200.year old institution was a mais antiga (the oldest) in the country and a maior (the largest) in Latin America.

Different hypothesis have been considered as the possible cause for the tragedy. Some eye witnesses claim to have seen a sky lantern falling on the museum roof. Others believe that a curto-circuito (short circuit) may have started it. There are reasons to assume, besides, that proper fire safety protocol was not followed. The museum was not equipped with sprinklers, just extintores (fire extinguishers). Also, due to an issue with the water hydrants, the bombeiros (firefighters) had some trouble finding the necessary amount of água (water) to apagar (put out) the flames.

Regardless of what could have originated the incêndio (fire), it is impossible not to see this incident as the ultimate symbol of the economic and political collapse under which Rio de Janeiro, and by extension our whole país (country), has submerged. In the struggle to define  who is to be held accountable for our national memory having turned to cinzas (ashes), authorities have declared that the danos (damages) are actually the result of continuous neglect and descaso (disregard) paired with lack of manutenção (maintenance), recursos (resources) and funds.

Throughout the anos (years), there have been signals of a deteriorated infrastructure in need of repair. Fire hazards abounded, such as the presence of uncovered wiring, the use of flammable material on the roof and many museum items that were permanently preserved in alcohol, many of which could have boosted the flames exterminating power. The museum administration argues that the cortes de orçamento (budgetary cuts) made during the economic crisis deeply affected the institution.

Much like the recording of ancient civilizations, part of Brazil’s cultural and scientific heritage are now in ruins. May these immense perdas (losses) serve as a aviso (warning) of future disasters that may happen if we don’t start placing culture and science in higher esteem in our country.


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