Wikipedia Is Building a Digital Archive of Artifacts Lost in the Brazil Museum Fire

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: Jonas de Carvalho via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

On September 2, 2018, a devastating fire destroyed Brazil’s Museu Nacional (National Museum) in Rio de JaneiroTragically, an estimated 20 million irreplaceable artifacts went up in smoke, with very few—if any at all—backed up by digital copies. In an attempt to preserve this priceless permanent collection, Wikipedia has launched a campaign to crowdsource photos of the museum before the blaze, and compile them into a digital archive.

The oldest fossilized human remains found in the Americas, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian coffin, and a colorful collection of moth specimens are just some of the objects Wikipedia hopes to immortalize in this virtual collection. To create the most comprehensive archive possible, the website is asking the public to send in any photographs—even selfies—that they have of the Museu Nacional. “There were over 20 million objects inside the #MuseuNacional,” Wikipedia said on Twitter. “Did you take a photo of any of them? Help us preserve the memories of as many as we can and add them to @wikicommons.”

This tweet is accompanied by a helpful infographic that details how to submit these precious images:

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

Photo: Wikipedia

While there is no way to resurrect the 200-year-old museum, Wikipedia hopes that this project will give future generations a glimpse into these tragically lost treasures—and emphasizes the immense importance of digitization. “We were really devastated to hear that so much human history was wiped out over the course of a single night,” Kui Kinyanjui, Vice President of Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, said. “It’s sad that we weren’t able to get this content before the fire, but now we’re trying to help the Wiki community in Brazil as they take the lead and work backwards to, in a way, retrieve what was lost.”

This growing collection of user-submitted photographs can be accessed through Wikimedia Commons.

In an effort to preserve the artifacts lost in the Rio Museum Fire, Wikipedia has launched a crowdsourced digitization project. Here are some of the user-submitted photographs:

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: Lets Vamoose LLC via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: Lets Vamoose LLC via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: Aline.Zigiotto via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: Lets Vamoose LLC via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rio Museum Archive Rio Museum Archive Fire Wikipedia Digitization

(Photo: JorgeBRAZIL via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

h/t: [Open Culture]

Related Articles:

20+ of the Best Free Online Resources From Art Institutions Around the World

How Museums Evolved Over Time From Private Collections to Modern Institutions

Virtual Tour of Florence’s Famed Uffizi Gallery Lets You Explore the Museum Online

Interview: Fire Photographer Documents the Bravery of Firefighters Battling Massive Flames

Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.

Want to become a My Modern Met Member?

Find out how by becoming a Patron. Check out the exclusive rewards, here.

Sponsored Content