Researchers announce items that survived Brazil museum fire

Brazil National Museum

Scene of Sept. 2, 2018 fire at the National Museum of Brazil. Photo by Felipe Milanez

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Researchers from Brazil’s National Museum said Monday that they had recovered more than 1,500 pieces from the debris following a massive fire.

The Sept. 2 blaze, which gutted one of the world’s oldest museums, destroyed much of the 20 million piece collection, and recovering objects from the ashes has been slow.

“The work must be done very carefully and patiently,” said Alexander Kellner, director of the museum.

The items recovered so far include the remains of several pieces, including Brazilian indigenous arrows, a Peruvian vase, and a pre-Colombian funeral urn.

In October, researchers recovered skull fragments and a part of the femur belonging to “Luzia,” the name scientist gave to a woman who lived 11,500 years ago. The fossils are among the oldest ever found in the Americas.

Brazil National Museum

This skull, known as ‘Luzia,’ is part of the oldest human skeleton found in the Americas. Photo by Dornicke, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

The update on recovery efforts Monday was accompanied by details of a US$205,385 donation from the German government for conservation equipment.

Klaus Zillikens, the German consul general to Rio de Janeiro, said his government was committed to the rehabilitation of the museum.

“For us, watching over our culture is both a political and social duty, and in such, immediately after the fire we looked into helping the museum with the restoration,” he said.

Zillikens said the donation was the first part of a potential US$1.3 million made available for the restoration, depending on need.

Authorities have yet to say how the blaze started, but the fire became a symbol for many Brazilians of the endemic negligence and underfunding by successive governments. Museum officials have said that the building was lacking many necessary security features like a sprinkler system and that fire safety risks were well know.

Brazil National Museum

2011 photo of The National Museum of Brazil, founded in 1818. Photo by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Since the fire, there has been an outpouring of international support, including the visit of a group of UNESCO specialists in recovery and reconstruction.


By YESICA FISCH, Associated Press

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