National Museum bioarchaeologist Murilo Bastos says it's hard to cry, but confesses that he "will be in tears of emotion and happiness" when the building and the institution's collection are fully recovered. The building and important pieces of its collection were destroyed in a fire in September 2018.
This is how Bastos sums up the efforts of researchers to recover the collection of the cultural space, located at Quinta da Boa Vista, in Rio's northern zone. Since the date of the accident, he has dedicated himself to this work: "What we most want here is to see this building and the whole structure of the museum, beautiful, as we like it, as Brazil and our population deserve.
In an interview with Brazil Agency He affirms that, while there are things to take out, everyone will be there, with the same energy, with the same force with which they started the rescue because they want to be sure that they recovered everything that was possible.
Bastos is anxious for the National Museum to return to full capacity, but before that, he stresses that researchers are working hard to remove pieces and fragments of the collection from the rubble: "As a professional, what I can say is that the museum is back to the public, for exhibitions, for displays, and our research area, close toIt's going to be great for everybody, it's going to have a synergy."
The bioarchaeologist emphasizes that there are several levels of difficulty and that the biggest one is that no one was used to dealing with the museum's collection, the burned material. "So it is very difficult to identify the pieces, it is a constant challenge and a learning from everything we have already done and everything we are doing now."
The meticulous work of searching for fragments of pieces of the collection amidst the rubble - Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil
Researchers and support teams are committed, day after day, to recovering the museum's collection. Ângela Buarque, once an anthropologist at the institution and now a collaborating researcher, leads the team responsible for recovering pieces and fragments of the exhibition Between Two Worlds: French from Paratitou and Tupinambás from Rouen which showed the meeting of native populations, that at the time were the Tupinambás of the Araruama lagoon, today the Lakes Region of Rio de Janeiro, and the French who arrived in the place in search of brazilwood and other products.
"It's always a tense, exciting moment when you find, sometimes, a tiny piece, because then you think that at least one record will remain. Since the beginning of January, we've been here and found only three tiny little pieces," says Angela.
According to the anthropologist, there were pieces in the exhibition that proved the French presence in the territory. "At this time of collection, it is mainly the small material: tiny beads, hundreds of them, that were in the showcases, melted. Today we are in search of these elements. As the beads are very small, we use a sieve that is also small."
Ângela adds that the exhibition was set up to be temporary, but ended up extending and had already been open to public visitation for 10 years, in the so-called Ambassadors' Room. "It was very significant material and dialogued with this moment [of the 16th century]".
During her research on this period, pieces were found that were not part of the exhibition and, therefore, were not destroyed by the fire. "We have a laboratory that works at the Horto - most of my research is at Casa de Pedra. We still have many things that, at some point, may come back and be part of an exhibition," says the anthropologist. The pieces thatwere in the museum, though. They were already restored and lost.
According to the anthropologist, this contact between the indigenous people and the French ended up taking a group of Tupinambás to Rouen, in France, where some settled. Others returned to Brazil.
One collection that is being recovered is the Egyptian collection, much sought after by the public before the fire. Marina Buffa Cesar and her team search daily for pieces and small fragments of an important collection for humanity, which she knew well as a researcher. She spends her days sifting through the rubble in search of the recovery of the Egyptian collection.There are moments when we have a smile on our faces because we are managing to save a lot of things from the National Museum. For me, it's gratifying".
The Egyptian collection was a permanent exhibit at the National Museum, and the prospect is that it will return when the space is reopened. "We have material that is not only related to the mummies, but also to the shabtis and bronze [pieces] that were unique and are being recovered. We will bring back to society both academic and the people who like to visit the National Museum," Marina adds.
Bio-anthropologist Murilo Bastos points out that the researchers work in a large support network among themselves: "There are days when one is sadder than the other, but they are all together to work and get the job done.
According to Bastos, every day they remember a little bit of what happened: "We knew the building before, the places, the rooms. When we enter, we remember how it was and see how it was. At the same time, the image of the fire comes to us, but also our minds kind of get used to that to adapt and have strength to continue," he concludes.
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