Google Unveils Digital Catalog of Lost Artifacts From Brazil’s Fire-Ravaged National Museum

An undated photo shows the oldest human fossil found in Brazil, dubbed Luzia, at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photo: Alexandre Macieira (AP)

Following a catastrophic fire in September that destroyed millions of priceless items at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Google has unveiled a project that preserved some of those precious artifacts and can now be explored through Google Street View.

Google’s Arts & Culture team began collaborating with the museum on taking its collection digital back in 2016, Program Manager Chance Coughenour wrote in a Google blog on Thursday. That catalog is now available online for users globally to revisit some of the rich cultural heritage that was housed in the museum’s massive collection.

The fire that tore through the museum earlier this year devastated 200 years of precious items. Among the those lost in the fire were dinosaur bones, remains of the oldest human found in the Americas known as Luzia (some of which were able to be recovered), Egyptian artifacts, and numerous other scientifically and culturally significant items.


Luiz Duarte, a vice director at the museum, described the incident at the time as an “unbearable catastrophe.” President Michel Temer of Brazil tweeted that the loss of the museum’s collection was “incalculable for Brazil.”

Since the fire in September, more than 1,500 items have been recovered from the debris, and plans for beginning the slow process of restoring the museum are reportedly already underway. The museum’s director Alexander Kellner said it’s “important to stress that the National Museum, despite having lost a significant part of its collection, has not lost its ability to generate knowledge.”

Pop into the museum for a tour of its collection right here.


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