On Sept. 2, 2018, Brazil’s National Museum, located in Rio de Janeiro, caught fire and sustained significant damage and loss. According to Scientific American, it has been estimated that 18 out of 20 million objects may have been lost in the fire. Included on the list of what may have been lost are the only samples of languages, plants and animals that are now extinct.
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One of the oldest human remains found in South America to date, an 11,500-year partial skeleton known as Luzia Woman, is also likely to have been lost. Science News reports that among the things lost in the fire are holotypes, which are important for future science. Holotypes are specimens that scientists use to determine the genus and species of other specimens.
Not all was lost in this fire, however. No one was injured or killed in the fire, but some researchers and people who work at the museum went back into the museum to try and rescue specimens and collections that had not yet been affected by the fire. Scientific American states that while the entomology and anthropology collections are most likely destroyed, the botany and vertebrate biology departments survived the fire due to being stored in separate facilities that were more modernized. There is a chance that some of the paleontology collections may have survived in compactors, which are heavy duty containers, but it will be difficult to access them due to fallen rubble. Science
News points out, however, that they may have sustained temperature damage during the fire.
The loss of this museum is a greatly disappointing loss to the scientific community, and it is especially sad given that there had been $5 million committed by the government’s development bank to renovate the museum and update the fire-suppression technology, as reported by Scientific American. There is also a potential $19.2 million that could go towards rebuilding the museum next year.