This Thursday (2), when the fire that devastated the National Museum completes three years, the institution launched an international campaign to restore its exhibition collection, almost entirely destroyed by flames, in 2018. So far, they have been received around 500 items from institutions and private collections.
Among the pieces that the museum has already received are Nazca pottery, mollusc collections and African ethnographic materials. Counting on non-exhibition items, that is, those that are used for research, the museum has already raised 2,000 new items.
“If you ask me and any colleague at our institution what our biggest challenge is, the answer will be the same: collection, collection and collection. Without an expressive collection, we will not have our National Museum back”, said Alexander Kellner, director of the institution, during a press conference.
The aim of the campaign is to get around 10 thousand items donated, which will be divided into four exhibition circuits: history, universe and life, Brazilian environments and cultural diversity.
The museum is expected to reopen on September 7, 2022, the date on which the bicentennial of independence is celebrated. However it will be a partial reopening.
Dean of UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), institution to which the museum has been linked since 1946, Denise Pires de Carvalho says that the expectation is to guarantee visitation to Jardim das Princesas, an area that will be completed this month.
According to Pires de Carvalho, the expectation is that in September 2022, at least part of the façade and the roof of block 1 will also be ready. She adds that the reopening will only be from the outside. For the completion of the interior of the palace, the expected date is 2026.
According to her, the institution has already managed about 64% of the R$ 385 million planned to carry out the restoration works. Contributions from the BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) to finance the work reach R$ 50 million.
“It’s a resource that goes directly to supporting block 1’s façade and roof works. These two investments that the bank is supporting represent roughly 50% of the museum’s area,” said Julio Costa Leite, superintendent of the BNDES.
The largest natural and anthropological history museum in Latin America, the National Museum had 80% of its collection destroyed by a fire that lasted more than six hours, on the night of September 2, 2018.
Founded in 1818 by Dom João 6º, the institution had more than 20 million items. Among them were famous pieces, such as Luzia’s skull, the oldest human fossil in South America —one of 10,000 pieces rescued and restored after the fire— and the Bendegó meteorite, the largest ever found in the country —which was in the museum entrance and withstood the flames.
This year, vertebrae from a large dinosaur were found in the rubble of the building. The fossil was virtually intact despite having been buried by the top two floors of the building during the fire.
The museum’s reconstruction project has been the subject of disputes. In March, Folha showed that the Bolsonaro government was trying to transform the institution into a tourist center dedicated to the imperial family. At the time, the idea was being taken over by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, a name linked to the monarchist movement.
Descendant of the royal family, deputy Luiz Philippe de Orléans e Bragança (PSL) was also one of the defenders of the idea. At the time, the director of the museum told Folha that the project was strange.
“This idea is one of the most preposterous I’ve ever heard, I’ve never seen it more absurd and ridiculous. It would kill the museum all over again. That palace has always been a natural history museum,” Kellner said.