It has been almost a year since the catastrophic blaze that destroyed the National Museum of Brazil and most of its priceless collection. Of the 20 million objects in the collection, it has been estimated that only roughly 2,000 objects have been recovered from the rubble.
This eye-opening video (https://internacional.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,museu-nacional-no-ri...) shows the gutted and burnt-out remains of the Museum and the heroic but painstaking rescue efforts of museum professionals and volunteers as they slowly sift through the rubble and document the remains.
Google Arts & Culture has also had a hand in the restoration efforts, creating a virtual museum allowing website visitors to travel through recent exhibit halls (now completely destroyed) thanks to their collection of high-resolution photogrammetry and 3D scans in 2016. You can visit the virtual museum here: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/museu-nacional-ufrj
Director of the National Museum of Brazil, Alexander Kellner, estimates that 300 million Brazilian reals (£58.7 million) will be needed to rebuild the Museum. According to Kellner, the Rio de Janeiro state legislature has promised 55 million reals and the Brazilian Development Bank 21.7 million reals, but of this promised amount only 3.3 million reals have been given. Other donations received by the Museum total nearly £250,000, in sad comparison with Notre Dame, which received pledges of nearly three-quarters of £1 billion within just 48 hours of the recent Paris fire.
But what Kellner says they really need right now is 1 million reals to cover the daily expenses; basic supplies, and funding that will allow the proper examination and storage of already-recovered collection objects.
The stark differences in donations and support between these two catastrophic fires are, frankly, embarrassing and distressing on a global level. But why is there such a contrast? Kellner himself has suggested several reasons. Brazilian corporations do not have a culture of philanthropic giving the way that US and European companies do. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the lack of built-in government incentives; there are no tax deductions for charitable giving in Brazil. Also, sad but true, many are hesitant to give to Brazil because of its reputation for internal corruption and the concern that donated funds will be mishandled.
Kellner has pointed out that the National Museum is not the only Brazilian collection to suffer from underfunding and lack of national support, but right now the National Museum is in dire need. Kellner recently put out a plea for letters of support in hopes that these might stimulate the Brazilian government into action. Donations can also be sent through “Friends of the Museum” here: https://www.samn.org.br/principais-acoes
Julian Bickersteth, IIC’s President, has also commented on the disaster and recovery efforts as follows:
In light of this truly devastating fire, IIC is well placed with its worldwide network of Fellows and associates to provide support in the recovery process. IIC is actively in touch with Director Kellner through his appointed representative, Brazilian-born Beatriz Haspo, Collections Officer at the US Library of Congress and Executive Director of APOYOnline, and are working through how best our assistance can be provided.