National Museum of Brazil

museum of UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The National Museum of Brazil (Portuguese: Museu Nacional) is the oldest museum and scientific institution of Brazil, located in Rio de Janeiro. It was established on 6 June 1818. Until 2018, it had one of the largest collections of natural history and anthropology in the Americas. Despite this, the 200 year old museum was already in bad condition when it burned on 2 September 2018.

The former Imperial Palace in better days. It housed the National Museum
Fire in progress
Lost in the fire: a fresco from the Temple of Isis at Pompeii, representing a sea dragon and a dolphin, 1st century AD



From 2014 the museum had budget cuts that dropped its maintenance to less than R$520,000 annually. The budget was so low, there was $0.01 to spend on each of the artifacts.[1]

The building fell into disrepair, with peeling wall material, exposed electrical wiring, and a termite problem.[1][2] Some of the artifacts lost in the fire included Egyptian mummies, remains from the oldest human skeleton found in the Americas, frescoes from Pompeii, and dinosaur skeletons.

By June 2018, the museum's 200th anniversary, it had reached a state of near-complete abandonment.[3]

There was an offer from The World Bank to buy the museum for $80m. It was turned down because the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro would have to give up ownership.[1]

The great fire


On 2 September 2018, at around 19:30 local time, a large fire broke out at the Paço de São Cristóvão. The museum was almost completely destroyed. The museum's holdings included over 20 million items. About 90% were destroyed.[4]

Brazil's President Michel Temer called the loss of the historical and cultural heritage "incalculable".[5] The cause of the fire is not known, but many connected it to the museum's lack of funding.[6]

No injuries were reported.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Lessons from the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  2. Pamplona, Nicola; Alegretti, Laís (2 September 2018). "Incêndio de grandes proporções atinge Museu Nacional na Quinta da Boa Vista, no Rio". Folha de S.Paulo (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  3. "Fogo destrói Museu Nacional, mais antigo centro de ciência do País". Estadão (in Portuguese). 2 September 2018. Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  4. "Incêndio destrói prédio do Museu Nacional no Rio de Janeiro" [Fire destroys building of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro]. (in Portuguese). 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  5. Phillips, Dom (3 September 2018). "'200 years of knowledge lost': fire engulfs Brazil's national museum". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  6. "Incêndio atinge o Museu Nacional na Quinta da Boa Vista, no Rio. Mais antigo do país, museu tem 20 milhões de itens e apresentava problemas de manutenção" [Fire hit the National Museum, at the Quinta da Boa Vista, in Rio. Most ancient of the country, the museum has 20 million items and presented maintenance issues]. Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese). 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  7. "Parte do teto do Museu Nacional já desabou com incêndio" [Part of the ceiling of the National Museum has already fallen due to the fire]. ISTOÉ Independente (in Portuguese). 2018-09-02. Retrieved 2018-09-02.

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