Sunday night was night of incalculable loss for Brazil as their National Museum was engulfed in an inferno that completely destroyed the structure.
The museum housed some 20 million items, including the first fossil discovered there, the oldest female skull found in the Americas and the nation’s largest meteorite. It also had priceless items from ancient Egypt, Greece and Italy, and served as a prominent research institution.
First built in 1818 as a residence for Portugal’s royal family, the structure also contained insects, mummies, paintings and dinosaur bones.
Brazilian President Michel Temer called the damage an “insurmountable” loss for the country. “Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost,” he said in a tweet Sunday. “It’s a sad day for all Brazilians.”
The deputy director of the museum, Cristiana Serejo, revealed that only 10 percent of its entire collection survived the massive flames, per The New York Times.
On Monday, protesters gathered outside of the historic building to express their grief not only at the loss of history but with the current state of violence and homelessness in the Latin American country.
“It’s a moment of intense pain,” said Maurilio Oliveira, a paleoartist at the Nation Museum of Brazil. ‘We can only hope to recover our history from the ashes. Nw, we cry and get to work.”
It unknown how the fire began Sunday evening, when the museum was closed. But the flames quickly fueled criticism of Brazil’s run down infrastructure and budget deficits as the nation prepares for national elections in October.
Several officials have said the building was known to be in serious disrepair and at significant risk of catching fire.
“Just crying doesn’t solve anything,” Alexander Kellner, the museum’s director, told reporters at the scene. He became emotional as he described plans to salvage what was left of the collection and rebuild. “We have to act.”