• A huge fire destroyed about 20 million items at Brazil's National Museum on Sunday.
  • Among those items lost were audio recordings of indigenous languages which can be no more spoken.
  • The president of Brazil has needed the museum to be rebuilt using private and public money.
  • On Monday, some scientists reported that technicians may have managed to truly save a few of the museum's items.

A huge fire destroyed roughly 20 million items at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Many audio recordings of indigenous languages which can be no more spoken were lost as well.

The museum is among the largest natural history museums in Latin America. It held collections of indigenous objects that anthropologists used to preserve native languages. A lot of the text and sound material in these archives documented languages which can be either gone or on the decline in Brazil.

It’s unclear whether any of the material was digitized.But when it wasn’t, it’s likely these languages have disappeared forever.

“I have no words to state how horrible that is,” Brazilian anthropologist Mariana Françozo, a specialist on South American indigenous objects, told National Geographic.”The indigenous collections certainly are a tremendous loss … we can no longer study them, we can no longer understand what our ancestors did. It’s heartbreaking.”

On Monday, Brazilian President Michel Temer needed the museum to be rebuilt using private and public money.He said the loss of artifacts is “incalculable to Brazil.” The museum held its 200th anniversary this year.

It’s unclear how a fire, which started following the museum had closed to visitors for the day, began. The Washington Post reported that police in riot gear held back Brazilians who gathered at the museum to call for Temer’s resignation.Crowd members said deficiencies in funding and modernization efforts had contributed to the fire.

Agência Brasil reported in 2004 that on a trip to the museum, Brazil’s state secretary for energy, naval industry and oil discovered dangerous wiring with the potential to create a devastating fire.

A few of the National Museum’s items may have withstood the fire, scientists said on Monday. Paleontologist Taissa Rodrigues told National Geographic that a number of the metal cabinets containing fossils may have survived.And biologist Duane Fonseca reported on Twitter that a number of the roughly 40,000 mollusk specimens had been saved.


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