National Museum Turns Into A Giant One-Story Carcass

Reporters were allowed to walk around the 200-year-old building destroyed by a fire five months ago

National Museum after the fire that destroyed the building, five months ago Folhapress

Júlia Barbon Angela Boldrini
Rio de Janeiro and Brasília

Peeled walls, molten paint, exposed brick, and twisted steel beams and railings. Rio de Janeiro's National Museum became a giant carcass of a building with no roof or windows, five months after the fire that destroyed it along with its priceless collections.

On Tuesday (12th), the 200-year-old building was opened to the press for the first time -- but it's unclear when it will be open again for the public. The second and third stories are gone, collapsed by the flames, and the former shades of pink and yellow from the walls now are mixed with the black and brown from soot.

Bendengó, the biggest meteorite ever found in Brazil, still dominates the entrance hall. Farther ahead, the marble stairs show some consequences from the fire in the tiny holes the flames made in the non-skid stripes. The fire didn't reach the whole building equally -- lucky for the garden, one of the few areas spared by the fire. 

The building is filled with scaffolding and other supporting structures, that have been gradually installed by a staff of 60 workers contracted by UFRJ (Universal Federal do Rio de Janeiro) to reinforce the building temporarily. The reinforcements allow museum researchers to search for items from the collection safely.

At this point, every room in the museum has been entered, but not all of them have been adequately cleaned, says paleontologist Luciana Carvalho. One such place is the one that housed Luzia, the oldest human remains found in America. Luzia's skull and part of a thigh-bone were found in October.

So far, 2,000 items have been found, according to archeologist Cláudia Carvalho, who is supervising the search efforts. They have been collected, screened, cataloged, stabilized to avoid further deterioration, and then restored. The whole process is happening inside 20 containers set up outside the museum. But the scientists say they need 20 more.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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