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Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Friday, September 7, 2018


We join our colleagues around the world in mourning the incalculable loss of Brazil's National Museum, which sustained the destruction of 90% of its collection in a fire that spread on September 2. As a result, one of the Americas' largest museums of natural history and anthropology, and the rich legacy of indigenous and immigrant populations is no more.

Screenshot from YouTube

An extensive article examining the event and its aftermath was published by Hyperallergic. As Popular Science reports, what happened in Rio is just the tip of the iceberg for many museums around the globe when it comes to disaster prevention.

The fire's cause is under investigation, however, two things are known for certain: smoke detectors in the building were not working and there was no sprinkler system. It's not such a big leap to envision the type of damage fire could bring to your own institution and we hope that the National Museum's fire caused every museum official to immediately check their fire detection and suppression systems, including hand-held fire extinguishers.

Detection and suppression systems, whether simple or sophisticated, are just two elements of a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that must rely, first and foremost, on human diligence. Humans are the first line of defense, ensuring that electrical systems are up-to-date and functioning properly, that flammable materials are safely stored, that storage and work spaces are free of combustible materials, that plans are in place regarding emergency response, that staff and volunteers are trained to respond appropriately, and that first responders are made aware of the unique characteristics of museum buildings and their holdings.

If you need help creating or updating your emergency preparedness plans and procedures, there are many resources to turn to for help.

Meanwhile, the National Museum needs your help. If you have photos of the museum and/or its artifacts, consider sending them to The Museu Nacional staff at isabeladfrreitas@gmail.com. With any luck some photos will have legible labels which may help recover at least some data.

Additionally, museum studies students at UNIRIO, the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, are collecting photos in an effort to preserve the memory and create a virtual museum of what has been lost. Emails may also be sent to thg.museo@gmail.com. You can read more about this project, Students Are Collecting Photos to Remember Brazil’s Destroyed National Museum.

Wikipedia is also collecting images: upload by going to commons.wikimedia.org, follow the instructions in the left-hand sidebar to upload images and choose the category "Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro".

Aqui no SAC lamentamos a perda do Museu e percebemos o dor do Povo Brasileiro. Olhamos para um futuro renascimento do Museu, que vai servir como um Fênix cujo destino serrai de liderar uma animação da percepção da grande historia e das riquezas dos ecossistemas do Brasil.

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