In DepthCULTURAL HERITAGE

In a ‘foretold tragedy,’ fire consumes Brazil museum

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Science  07 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6406, pp. 960
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6406.960

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Summary

On the night of 2 September, a fierce blaze gutted the 19th century home of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. The cause of the fire, which left only the exterior walls standing, was not known at press time, and no one was hurt. But in a matter of hours, 2 centuries of Brazil's most prized scientific and cultural heritage were erased. The museum was the country's oldest scientific institution, with massive archives and archaeological and natural history collections numbering perhaps 20 million items, including one of the oldest human skulls found in the Americas, type specimens of South American dinosaurs, and an insect collection with 5 million specimens. The museum had long suffered from underfunding, and the building had hazardous electrical wiring and lacked fire protection systems such as sprinklers.