May 19, 2022

Brazil Museum Fire: Funding Cuts Blamed as Icon is Gutted

UPDATE 4 Biodiversity Heritage Library Issues Statement on the Fire at the National Museum of Brazil (September 10, 2018)

UPDATE 3 Wikipedia Seeks Photos of 20 Million Artifacts Lost in Brazilian Museum Fire (via CNET)

UPDATE 2 Statement From the Smithsonian

UPDATE: Statement from the International Council of Museums 

From the BBC: 

One of the largest anthropology and natural history collections in the Americas was almost totally destroyed in Sunday’s fire in Rio de Janeiro.

There had been complaints about the dilapidated state of the museum. “We never had adequate support,” its deputy director said after the fire.


A deputy director at the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, expressed “immense anger”, and accused Brazilian authorities of a “lack of attention”.

“We fought years ago, in different governments, to obtain resources to adequately preserve everything that was destroyed today.”

Demonstrators gathered at the gates of the museum on Monday morning, protesting against the budget cuts that they blame for the fire. Police were seen firing tear gas.

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From the AP:

The museum’s director said a portion of the collection was destroyed and that it was impossible to say yet how much. But the deputy director suggested that the damage could be catastrophic, with most objects in the main building probably lost, except for some meteorites.

The main building housed the cultural and historical artifacts for which the museum was known. The collection of 20 million items included Egyptian and Greco-Roman relics and the oldest human skull found in the Western hemisphere, known as Luzia. The building was once the home of the Portuguese royal family.

On Monday, the building was still standing, but much of it appeared to have been gutted. Civil defense authorities warned that the structure was not safe to enter because the roof and internal walls had been compromised and could collapse further.

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From Agence France Presse:

The natural history and anthropology museum — founded in 1818 and home to over 20 million valuable pieces — has suffered from funding cuts, forcing it to close some of its spaces to the public.

The head of finance and planning at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, on which the museum depends, described the destruction as “a loss to the whole world.”

“We are not going to put up with this strangulation of public resources anymore,” Roberto Antonio Gambine Moreira told AFP.


“This is a tragic day for Brazil,” President Michel Temer said in a statement. “Two hundred years of work and research and knowledge are lost.”

– ‘Culture is grieving’ –

Brazil’s minister of culture, Sergio Sa Leitao, tweeted that “there will be little or nothing left of the palace and the exhibits.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.