One of the greatest tragedies in the museum world transpired over the weekend when fire broke out at Brazil’s Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, touching off a mad scramble to save physical and virtual treasures.
Many of the 200-year-old natural history museum’s 20 million artifacts have been destroyed, including irreplaceable fossils and specimens. One heartbreaking video sweeps around a ruined gallery where only a monumental meteorite survived unscathed.
Museum workers managed to save some artifacts from the blaze, and other items survived because they were on loan to institutions elsewhere. But for many of the pieces, the only hope is to build a digital archive containing videos and photos of the museum’s collection.
Wikipedia is encouraging folks to upload pictures from the museum to its Wikimedia Commons repository.
Closer to home, students at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro are heading up their own crowdsourcing effort,. They’re even soliciting selfies from past visits.
O Globo says imagery can be sent to these email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
“Thousands of images have already been uploaded,” the newspaper reports.
Meanwhile, Sketchfab’s 3-D modeling community is collecting its own store of digital models related to the museum and its artifacts. The files range from a reconstruction of the museum’s exterior to an ancient Egyptian statuette and funerary mask.
“It is hopeful that more objects may have also been captured, and that they may prove useful in at least the digital restoration of the museum’s collection,” Thomas Flynn, cultural heritage lead at Sketchfab, told GeekWire in an email.
To get more of a sense of the museum’s digital remnants, check out these tweets:
This is what’s left of Rio’s 200 year-old Museu Nacional . Who made this video? pic.twitter.com/ppEKpxR4DJ
— Lúcia Guimarães (@luciaguimaraes) September 3, 2018
Esqueleto de pterossauro pic.twitter.com/Z4IuXRPPMH
— tem que acabar o jovem (@leuavila) September 3, 2018
We still don't know what (if anything) made it through the Museu Nacional UFRJ fire, but here are two of the dinosaurs that were in the collections or exhibits: the original skull of the spinosaurid Irritator and the mounted skeleton of the titanosaur Maxakalisaurus pic.twitter.com/rxhzn5lIve
— Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. 🦖💕 (@TomHoltzPaleo) September 3, 2018
I am particularly sad about Luzia, the oldest human fossil found in Brazil. She lived in south-central Brazil some 12,000 years ago and was such an important historical artifact. I can't stand the fact that we lost her. pic.twitter.com/B8InTMLNcD
— Marina Amaral (@marinamaral2) September 3, 2018
Skull of ancient human possibly found in burned Brazilian museum: Firefighters combing through the charred remains of Brazil's National Museum have found a skull that may belong to its star exhibit, an 11,500-year-old woman named Luzia, local… https://t.co/ssOoQtImyp – Reuters pic.twitter.com/kmIvv6FwyL
— NewsUpdate24 🌍 (@NewsUpdate24Int) September 4, 2018
A Roman fresco from Pompeii, spared by Vesuvius fire, has been destroyed by the blaze in Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro pic.twitter.com/5U4FZqyGqN
— Alfons López Tena #FBPE (@alfonslopeztena) September 3, 2018