The National Museum of Brazil was left in ruins over the weekend after a massive blaze engulfed the building, destroying thousands of priceless artifacts. Though the fire itself has subsided, the building’s tragic end appears to be stoking new flames between protestors and local police.
The institution housed more than 20 million artifacts, according to The Guardian. While luckily no injuries have been reported, the damage to the building and the irreplaceable items inside is immense.
On Monday, protestors took to the streets in Rio de Janerio after it was reported that the fire was due to government spending cuts, which left the museum without adequate infrastructure, CNN reported.
“This fire was caused due to several years of neglect from the federal government,” Caio, an anthropology student who studied at the museum, told the AFP. “The anthropology department went through absurd budget cuts from the federal government during the past two years. In my class alone, it was around 70 percent.”
This tragedy may have been a long time coming, at least according to the museum’s deputy director who told the BBC, “We never had adequate support.” The deputy said staff had been warned for years an event like this could take place.
“Given the financial straits of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and all the other public universities the last three years, this was a tragedy that could be seen coming,” Marina Silva, a current presidential candidate in Brazil, told the BBC.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro fire department said two fire hydrants outside the museum did not have enough pressure to work properly, CNN reported. The fire department was forced to pull water from a nearby pond to fight the fire.
As for what’s next for the museum, staffers are hoping for both a miracle and some generosity.
“Very little will be left,” preservation director João Carlos Nara told Agência Brasil. “We will have to wait until the firefighters have completed their work here in order to really assess the dimension of it all.”
Brazilian Minister of Culture Serguio Sá Leitao is already planning to rebuild. “We are hoping to start an international campaign to mobilize collectors that would be willing to donate or sell their collections,” he said.