National Museum of Brazil burns

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National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby Braininvat on September 3rd, 2018, 9:09 am 

(CNN) — A massive fire engulfed Brazil's National Museum Sunday, destroying priceless artifacts dating back centuries.
Firefighters from seven different stations worked through the night to put out the blaze, but even as flames leaped from the 200-year-old building, Brazilian President Michel Temer said the losses were too great to be calculated.
The museum, which is located in Rio de Janeiro, is a former a royal palace that was converted to a museum 200 years ago. It holds at least 20 million artifacts, with exhibitions in biological anthropology, archeology, ethnology, geology, paleontology and zoology, according to the museum's website...


https://www-m.cnn.com/2018/09/02/americ ... index.html

Devastating loss to an important scientific institution of Latin America.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby BadgerJelly on September 3rd, 2018, 9:18 am 

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! :(
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby toucana on September 3rd, 2018, 2:33 pm 

From 2014, the Museum faced budget cuts that dropped its maintenance to less than R$520,000 annually. The building fell into disrepair, evidenced by peeling wall material and exposed electrical wiring.[12] By June 2018, the Museum's 200th anniversary, it had reached a state of near-complete abandonment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Brazil

*Sigh*
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby Event Horizon on September 3rd, 2018, 8:00 pm 

All those precious artefacts. Not to mention the building. This is a serious cultural loss in my estimation. Really tragic event.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby zetreque on September 4th, 2018, 1:34 am 

You would think we'd learn after the Library of Alexandria.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby toucana on September 9th, 2018, 3:14 pm 

Brazil.jpg

Folks, there’s nothing left from the Linguistics division. We lost all the indigenous languages collection: the recordings since 1958, the chants in all the languages for which there are no native speakers alive anymore, the Curt Niemuendaju archives: papers, photos, negatives, the original ethnic-historic-linguistic map localizing all the ethnic groups in Brazil, the only record that we had from 1945. The ethnological and archeological references of all ethnic groups in Brazil since the 16th century… An irreparable loss of our historic memory. It just hurts so much to see all in ashes.”

Cinda Gonda, translated by Diogo Almeida, about the fire at Brazil’s National Museum.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby BadgerJelly on September 10th, 2018, 5:48 am 

It is this kind of thing that really gets to me. Whoever was responsible for this must absolutely be locked up. It’s frankly one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard.

To have a large section of human culture erased is unforgivable. This level of negligence is criminal.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby Braininvat on September 10th, 2018, 9:57 am 

Also shows what happens when tapes and maps and other sources are, due to lack of funds, not digitally backed up. If sound files had been made, then distributed to others academic institutions and museums and so on, perhaps as flashdrives, then we would still have the essence of these resources available even if originals were burned up. Or, lower tech, just have made copies of the tapes on backup tapes, etc. Poor fire precautions are bad, but no backup copies is insane.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby BadgerJelly on September 10th, 2018, 10:18 am 

Braininvat » September 10th, 2018, 9:57 pm wrote:Also shows what happens when tapes and maps and other sources are, due to lack of funds, not digitally backed up. If sound files had been made, then distributed to others academic institutions and museums and so on, perhaps as flashdrives, then we would still have the essence of these resources available even if originals were burned up. Or, lower tech, just have made copies of the tapes on backup tapes, etc. Poor fire precautions are bad, but no backup copies is insane.


That’s what mean too! I cannot fathom the idiocy and complacency involved. It’s simply disgraceful.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby wolfhnd on September 10th, 2018, 11:27 am 

The assumption that a lack of funds is the primary culprit is dangerous because it ignores the importance of culture. An institution's culture can overcome a lack of funds and well funded institutions can still fail.

This incident reminds me of Bush junior's Iraq invasion. No thought was apparently given to the protection of cultural resources. It was a reflection of values.

You could make an argument that the poor in a country such as Brazil are a more worthy recipient of the funds expended on a cultural icon. That class and power directed the funds towards this institution. I would argue however that the more likely culprit is a culture that at some level rejected meritocracy. A rejection of meritocracy that in some ways resembles the lack of meritocracy present in a Bush dynasty. Corruption doesn't flow so much from inequity as privilege. Privilege that I would argue is an essential element of almost all intellectual classes.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby Braininvat on September 10th, 2018, 11:43 am 

wolfhnd » September 10th, 2018, 8:27 am wrote:The assumption that a lack of funds is the primary culprit is dangerous because it ignores the importance of culture. An institution's culture can overcome a lack of funds and well funded institutions can still fail.

This incident reminds me of Bush junior's Iraq invasion. No thought was apparently given to the protection of cultural resources. It was a reflection of values.



I just quoted the on-topic portion of your comments, Wolf. Not that your political and ideological observations lack merit.

In this particular case, the museum's funding problems were widely publicized in many news reports. It was not well-funded. (sure, there may be cultural reasons for that - "culture" covers a pretty wide conceptual territory) And museum funding is an area in which I have some knowledge, due to friendships (and even a marriage) to people who are well-versed in museums and curatorship. All museums that have ethnographic materials of the type Toucana described as being lost, consider it important to create facsimiles and digital backups that exist off-site. And all such museums support a network of researchers and scholarly types who would strongly support such backing up and distribution. The lack of funds would be the proximate cause of these losses, no matter what other societal factors are behind that lack.

So there was really nothing "dangerous" about my or Badger's comments. We were addressing a proximate cause which is something that all curators, around the world, deal with.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby wolfhnd on September 10th, 2018, 12:18 pm 

BIV I was making a deeper point in that the resources necessary to make digital records are minimal. The resources necessary to provide fire protection extraordinary expensive. The latter may for political reasons been difficult in Brazil, which you can't dismiss out of hand, the former however go to a deeper problem. I was hypothesizing that privilege, such as may be analogous to the Bush dynasty, of an intellectual class in a place such as Brazil, but not exclusively, results in a kind of sloppiness or lack of conscientiousness. Especially if values other than intellectual aptitude and class are not part of a hierarchy based on merit. I would argue that the reproducibility problem in the social sciences is remotely similar. In other words elitism or status based not on work ethic and consciousness but a social network is dangerous.

There is a fundamental problem of personality types needing each other. Openness needs to be balanced by consciousness.
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby Braininvat on September 10th, 2018, 2:18 pm 

wolfhnd » September 10th, 2018, 9:18 am wrote:BIV I was making a deeper point in that the resources necessary to make digital records are minimal.


This is factually incorrect. Considerable manhours and equipment is needed to make and catalog and index voluminous sound files, high-resolution color scans (especially large maps, especially with fragile originals), and so on. Some old books are hard to upload with OCR technology. Will be back later...
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Re: National Museum of Brazil burns

Postby toucana on September 10th, 2018, 6:13 pm 

I worked as a technician for over thirty years in a marquee arts organisation in UK until I retired last December. I would make several observations:

It is enormously time consuming to convert analogue sound recordings and photographic material from legacy formats into digital files. The in-house technicans who are busy supporting current public program activities usually have no time, budget, or training to do this type of conservation work themselves.

External archivists brought in to undertake the preservation of this material tend to work very slowly indeed, partly because they work to pre-defined archival protocols and standards which often result in absolutely enormous and unecessarily cumbersome files e.g. using TIFF files instead of JPG or PNG for photo scans (even on old b/w photos), or using PCM/WAV audio formats at high sampling rates for audio material that was recorded at little better than the 200Hz to 4KHz telephone audio bandwidth of a 1930s telephone to start with.

It happens because archivists are trained to use lossless digital storage formats, even when it means creating and storing a digital file that may be a hundred times bigger than it needs to be. (Lots of luck storing those on a thumb drive).

Even when you do create your archives in digital formats to start with, you can still loose all your material thanks to administrative problems. Shortly before I retired, I discovered that my own organisation’s administration which was in deep financial crisis had decided that they didn’t really need to keep paying the annual subscription on our Dropbox account which held about six years worth of archival recordings of all our recent lectures and concerts and a good deal of exhibition-related image and video material too. They ignored all warnings, and so we lost access to all of it when the Dropbox account expired, just before I left.
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