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On behalf of the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) 10,000 members, we want to express our deepest sympathies to our colleagues at Rio de Janeiro's Museu Nacional, or National Museum, which suffered a devastating fire Sunday night.
Founded in 1818, the museum is Brazil's oldest scientific institution and one of the largest and most renowned museums in Latin America, amassing a collection of some 20 million scientifically and culturally invaluable artifacts. In addition to the loss of collections assembled over 200 years, the blaze destroyed years of theses and research and left a gaping hole in many scientists' careers. The loss to world knowledge, heritage and collective memory is incalculable.
We know that many of us have worked with materials from the museum’s collections, and may have created digital records that would help reconstitute some of the reference materials. While these are but traces of the original material, there may be some value in drawing together such records. We are all connected to our colleagues regarding this irreplaceable loss and stand ready to assist and support the recovery of this venerable institution.
How can you help?
You may be interested in a crowdsourcing effort in Brazil to get visitors and researchers (who may have digital images and digital records of the collections) to contribute whatever documentation they have to help rebuild a virtual Museu. These efforts might at least salvage some of the research potential of the collections that were lost. They also, sadly, will help identify the extent of what was lost. Students and alums from a museum studies program at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro are behind this effort to collect digital documentation of the collections and the museum galleries (images, 3D models, digital records). Researchers and visitors can send their information to any of the following email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. This article provides additional details about this effort.
Bioarchaeologist and science communicator Kristina Killgrove highlights additional efforts to help document the museum's collections on her Forbes blog.
The Francisca Keller Library, one of the primary resources available to students of the museum's graduate program, was also devastated by the fire. The library has launched a book donation campaign to start rebuilding their collection. This webpage provides important information about how to donate.
Additional sources of information include: