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The Brazilian National Museum fire was a tragedy—but it’s hard to call it an accident

Museum staff had warned of underfunding and hazardous conditions. But in Brazil, anti-intellectualism has become mainstream

By Julia Blunck   October 2018

The first thing to burn were memories. Physical registries of history were gone in minutes. Written documents dating from early Portuguese colonization and a vast archive of the Portuguese-Brazilian monarchy, never digitized, mixed into the black smoke.

It wasn’t simply colonizers’ bookkeeping being erased from memory. This was a democratic tragedy: registries of Brazilian indigenous people burned too,  alongside testimonials on the lives of slaves, fossilized remains, mummies, pottery, and an undisclosed number of other artefacts from among…

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