From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
On Sept. 2, Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro was devastated by fire, leaving only the shell of its building and perhaps millions of destroyed artifacts. It represents the loss of 200 years of scientific research.
The National Museum was in disrepair and subject to drastic budget cuts. There was an 85% drop in funding between 2013 and 2018. While all regional museums have seen funds reduced, the National Museum’s cuts were disproportional.
Part of this had to do with its location in the more working class North Zone, as opposed to the South Zone of Rio with its glitzy tourist beaches.
‘A DEADLY BLOW TO CULTURE’
Dr. Leonardo Custodio, researcher and activist, said: “The museum was located in Sao Cristovao in the north of the city. Most people there are low income workers. I’d dare to say that the National Museum was the most accessible to Black and brown low-income families. I never saw so many people like me in any other museum.
“It felt comfortable to be at the museum, despite the uncomfortable heat of some rooms. Beyond the horrible historical loss, the fire is another deadly blow to cultural life in the North Zone.”