September 5, 2018

"Huge collections of feather work and masks from indigenous peoples of South America were also consumed in the fire..."

"... as well as pottery and artifacts of a culture that made shell mounds along what is now Brazil’s Atlantic Coast for thousands of years. While some of the biological collections may be replenished, this cultural history is simply gone. Carlos Fausto, a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said this material memory of Brazilian history was 'just irreplaceable.'... 'What is the value of the cultural heritage of a country?... It is beyond value.'"

From "What Was Lost in the Brazil Museum Fire/Some items in the collection are irreplaceable to science, as well as the country’s national memory" (NYT). At the link, many photographs of things that are now reduced to ash.


My name goes here. said...

Is suggesting that the British Museum has a state of the art fire suppression system an endorsement of colonialism?

Asking for a friend.

Fernandinande said...

It is beyond value.

That's one way of putting it.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Fortunately, history keeps churning this stuff out. To say nothing of what museums keep in storage because there was no room to display it. In 20 years what was lost will neither be remembered nor missed.

rhhardin said...

I never liked pottery class in school. The only interesting part is exploding pots in the kiln.

Fernandinande said...

a culture that made shell mounds ...for thousands of years.

We could have learned so much from them, but now the chance is gone.


'What is the value of the cultural heritage of a country?'

That would depend on the type of shells used in making the mounds which define the country's culture.

Rob said...

NYT headline and subhead on the day after World War III:

Women, Blacks and Indigenous Peoples Suffer Most

Leland said...

That fire was horrific regardless of what was in the building, but it is a shame that so much history and wealth was easily destroyed. Apparently its value wasn't worth the effort for even basic fire suppression. And if anyone thinks, "you can't use water, because it will destroy things too"; well your options are a few things destroyed by water and fire, or a complete inferno destroying everything. Halon would be best, but other than sending a few firemen in to grab things and run; they didn't seem to do anything to protect the building and the artifacts within.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Brazil has bigger problems than some stupid shells and feathers being burned.

Corruption, crime, and economic development are a lot more important.

MadisonMan said...

Quite a loss. But now I don't have to travel down to Brazil to see this museum.

Not quite the loss that happened in Alexandria, I'd say.

Andrew said...

I enjoy the snark in these comments. It is a tragedy, but the way some of these cultural relics are being sentimentalized is a little much.

It reminds me of seeing relics from Native American culture. "Here's a mound of dirt. Here's some shards of pottery. A great breakthrough came when they started using corn for food!" Shrug.

Thank God for Western civilization.

Etienne said...

Look at the bright side!

At least now they can lay off all those people who's job it was to take care of the inventory, who were overworked and underpaid anyway.

Etienne said...

Fire, is God's way of saying he hates you.

Earnest Prole said...

It almost makes one wonder if it's smart to store all the most valuable cultural stuff in one place.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

The Elgin Marbles are doing just fine, thanks for asking. Horrible imperialism/white supremacy, I know.

Lots of things are "beyond value" but it's just irresponsible to not put some effort into protecting them. Let this be a lesson for any of us who neglect our health!

Also: this is a good argument for digitizing anything and everything, starting with important cultural artifacts that reside in less-than-secure locations. That's a lesson we should have learned after Afghanistan & Syria, but here we are.

YT: Joni Mitchell - Big Yellow Taxi

YT: Counting Crows - Big Yellow Taxi

Achilles said...

They obviously didn’t really care about the stuff.

We know the NYTs doesn’t care.

Some People are mad because there aren’t very many museum curator jobs around and now there is one less.

The only interest the NYTs has in history is rewriting it.

MikeR said...

In humanity's history, keeping things in a museum has so far been a guarantee that they will be destroyed. Sooner or later. We have no intact ancient museums. Anything archaeologists have was left lying around somewhere. Most of that was destroyed too, of course. But some survives.

Caligula said...

What seems remarkable about artifacts such as "feather works and masks" is not their destruction, but that it's sometimes possible to preserve such intrinsically perishable objects. For awhile, at least.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What a terrible loss.

I'm hung up on the weird phrase what is now Brazil's Atlantic Coast Isn't that the ONLY coast that Brazil has?

I know that the coast line changes over the millennia....however, I doubt that Brazil ever had anything but an Atlantic coast... except for when it was attached to Africa.

brylun said...

Furthers the argument for keeping the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.

madAsHell said...

I toured the British Museum, and was delighted to find that they had artifacts from the Pacific Northwest. The variety of artifacts closely modeled the artifacts found in Pioneer Square, and Gastown tourist traps.

Big Mike said...

A number of native Brazilian birds have gone extinct due to loss of habitat, so many of those feathered cloaks are absolutely irreplaceable. I think the blue macaw is among the extinct species.

It isn’t just a sad loss for Brazil; it’s a sad loss for all of humanity.

buwaya said...

Brazil is a colonial empire in itself.
It should count as a European state, ruling over a large mestizo-native-ex slave lower order.
It should be considered to be akin to the US or Australia, a creation of Europeans.
It is still run by and for the descendants of the European settlers, and has never been ruled by a different European power.

Indeed, Brazil is the one case where the bulk of the power structure of the European motherland migrated to their colony.

Fernandinande said...

It reminds me of seeing relics from Native American culture.

I'm physically in the middle of that stuff, and have mixed feelings about it. Archaeology is a hobby-science, not a useful science.

But it's pretty cool to be out in the middle of nowhere and run across a 25' tall stone tower with windows that some dudes built maybe 1000 years ago (Fremont), but what can you learn other than that they could make stone towers (and cliff "dwellings"), and did so because they fought with each other a lot?

I found some petroglyphs the local Navajos didn't know about, and their reaction was "Oh, that's nice", without much interest (you seen one...), plus the Navajos, at least, haven't been in this area much longer than the Europeans, so the towers and petroglyphs don't really have anything to do with them.

Howard said...

The meteorite survived.

Fernandinande said...

a 25' tall stone tower

Well, maybe 8 or 10 feet of it left. My memory improved it.

MadisonMan said...

I'm hung up on the weird phrase what is now Brazil's Atlantic Coast Isn't that the ONLY coast that Brazil has?

But it wasn't always a Brazilian Coast. I think that's the point. The people were on the coast before it was Brazilian.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But it wasn't always a Brazilian Coast. I think that's the point. The people were on the coast before it was Brazilian.

Whatever it was before the Country of Brazil existed the coast was still on Atlantic Ocean. Since there is NO other coast, it seems that "Atlantic" is redundant or for dummies who don't know where Brazil is actually located.

It is like saying the Pacific Coast of Oregon. Duh.

I know...anal and pedantic :-[


What historical value? They were a bunch of blood-thirsty cannibals when whitey conquered them and tried to civilize them. Feather-work and masks? Please.

Leland said...

The meteorite survived.

The fire wasn't nearly as hot as entry into Earth's atmosphere.

n.n said...

Tear down the statues? We know that there was inter and intra-tribal and national conflicts that included genocide, redistributive change, retributive change, and slavery.