After accusations of neglect, Brazil’s government declares emergency aid for National Museum

World Today

“A lobotomy of Brazilian memory.” That’s how one presidential candidate is describing the loss of the National Museum of Brazil which was ravaged by fire. The government has announced emergency funding – after being accused of neglecting the institution.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco reports.

The 200 year-old National Museum, one of most important natural history and anthropology museums in the Americas, is now reduced to ashes. A metaphor, many said, of Brazil’s own state of affairs after years of political and economic crisis.

A victim of government spending cuts, some said. Stung by the criticism, Brazilian officials announced an emergency plan to rebuild the museum.

“The education ministry will immediately distribute an initial $2.4 million to guarantee, first of all, the safety of the museum,” said Rossieli Soares, Brazil’s Minister of Education.

Forensic investigators have also started to look for the remaining collection; more than eleven thousand years’ worth of artifacts that were inside the palace that once housed the Portuguese royal family.

Museum officials said it’s impossible to put a value on the collection destroyed by the fire, adding that many of the artifacts were irreplaceable.

But they also insist that the museum is not dead.

Cristiane Serejo, a vice director of the museum, explained that the library and the vertebrate and botanical departments were housed separately and escaped the fire.

“I started saying that 90 percent was lost when you see the main building,” she explained, “but we still got other areas of the museum that are still alive and we got these collections to maintain our research.”

A meteorite, weighing over 5.6 tons – the largest ever found in Brazil – also survived.

But major pieces such as Luzia (considered the oldest human fossil in South America); bones of Brazilian dinosaurs; an Egyptian collection; and five million insects, among other treasures, went up in smoke.

Experts said it will take some time to identify what remains of the 20 million artifacts that made the country’s oldest scientific intuition a living archive of Brazilian history.

Paulo Sotero discusses the loss of the National Museum of Brazil

To understand the significance of the loss of Brazil’s National Museum, CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Paulo Sotero, the director of the Brazil Institute at The Wilson Center.