National Museum starts reconstruction three years after fire

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More than three years after the fire, the National Museum begins to be rebuilt. The bicentennial palace that was the home of the imperial family and the first scientific institution in the country, however, will only see its facade and part of its roof renovated for the time being.

The idea is to finish this external part by September 7, 2022, to host the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Brazil’s independence. But delays in the schedule have not been rare so far, with obstacles in bidding and obtaining funds and, mainly, with the pandemic.

The initial forecast was to start the renovation in 2019, when the tragedy completed one year. Afterwards, June of this year was speculated, which also did not materialize. The interior of the building, which now has a project ready, should be at least for 2026.

The imposing palace at Quinta da Boa Vista, in the northern part of Rio de Janeiro, is still surrounded by fences and surrounded by a giant metal roof that protects it from the rain, as its roof and its two floors collapsed in the flames.

It was inside it, with bricks still exposed by fire and steel structures still twisted, that the ceremony to start the renovations took place this Friday (12). Mayor Eduardo Paes (PSD) would attend, but he did not go and sent his secretary of Urban Planning, Washington Fajardo.

“The beginning of this work is a great emotion, for all of us who struggled so much, suffered so much,” said Alexander Kellner, director of the museum, linked to the UFRJ. “Today we give the kickoff to turn the page on one of the greatest tragedies that happened in the scientific and cultural field of our country.”

The institution has so far managed to raise 65% of the $385 million needed for the reconstruction, which came largely from Vale and BNDES and will be managed by the Associação Amigos do Museu Nacional. The responsible construction company is Concrejato.

Regarding the works on the façade, “the big news is that there will be nothing new”, says Kellner. It will be identical or as similar as possible to the original building, “we’re just not going to use whale oil like we used to”, he jokes. The roof will have some glass parts to let in natural light.

The only reforms that had already started inside the palace were those of Jardim das Princesas, where the first republican constitution in the country was written. Thrones and mosaics have been restored, and landscaping will begin.

The main goal now is to recover the lost collection in the largest museum of natural and anthropological history in Latin America. It is estimated that 85% of the 20 million copies that were in the building were destroyed during the more than six hours of the fire on the night of September 2, 2018.

The expectation is that the researchers will be able to recover from 20 thousand to 50 thousand of the items rescued from the rubble, which comprise most of the existing collections. Among them are famous pieces such as Luzia’s skull, the oldest human fossil in South America, and the Bendegó meteorite, the largest ever found in the country, which was at the entrance and withstood the flames.

“It is essential to understand that the greatest challenge for the reconstruction of the National Museum is called the collection. You cannot recover a 200-year-old collection overnight. And we also need help from other countries for that,” said the director.

On September 3, the institution launched an international campaign with the objective of collecting around 10,000 copies, which will be divided into four exhibition circuits: history, universe and life, Brazilian environments and cultural diversity. So far, around 500 have been donated.

Another important step expected to take place at the beginning of next year is the opening of a visitation center aimed at children. The structure is already ready on the museum’s new teaching and research campus, close to Maracanã (north of Rio), but the collection is still lacking.

“The movement for education began in Brazil with the arrival of the royal family, in 1808. We need more and more to value education, science, culture and technology, because far from that we will not be a truly independent country, despite being for 200 independent years”, concluded the dean of UFRJ, Denise de Carvalho.

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