“Our expectation is to have a richer library than that we lost…by the end of 2019 we expect to have at least the same number of volumes we had before the fire.” – Federico Neiburg, anthology professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Following a devastating fire that wiped out almost all of the 20 million artifacts that were housed in Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, the Association of University Presses (which is comprised of over 140 member presses) announced in late January that it would be donating books to the museum to aid in its rebuilding process. The implications of the fire were not just physical, but scientific and cultural as well.
The Museum was a harbinger of pride for Brazilians, as it was one of the largest and most renowned musea in the whole of Latin America. It housed invaluable artifacts such as South America’s oldest fossils, “Luzia,” and the archeological remains of uniquely Brazilian creatures from over 10,000 years ago. The building itself was precious; it was once the home of an exiled Portuguese royal family, following their escape from Napoleon’s army. Thus, we can glean that the loss of such a historically-rich entity has deeply affected the Brazilian people, and most of all, its dedicated archeologists, botanists, curators, anthropologists, and zoologists (among others) whose meticulous work was the backbone of the museum’s metaphorical luster.
“…while the AUPresses initiative cannot replace the cultural loss, it is helping to organize the recovery of as many books as possible,” writes Ernie Smith ofAssociationNow. The wounds of the loss will remain fresh for many years to come, but it is paramount that initiatives such as AUPresses’ be carried out to alleviate Brazil’s loss and facilitate the museum and its employees’ journey towards rebuilding.