Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Four years after being largely incinerated in a massive blaze that destroyed some 18,000 artifacts, the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro has finished the initial phase of its reconstruction, The Art Newspaper reports. Though officials had hoped to have entirely rebuilt from the September 2, 2018, fire in time for Brazil’s September 7 bicentennial of independence, at present only the façade has been restored, along with the marble statues that formerly occupied the structure’s roof. The latter are on display in Quinta da Boa Vista park, just outside the museum, while the roof now hosts their replicas. A display of minerals is on view on the museum’s ground floor, along with several other exhibits; all may be apprehended from outside the building.

Delayed by the Covid-19 crisis and by financial concerns—the latter of which affected the museum mightily long before the fire and were unmitigated following the 2019 ascent to power of the country’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro—the museum’s full reopening is scheduled for 2027. Total reconstruction costs are expected to land anywhere between $75 million and $97 million; to date, Rio de Janeiro’s government has ponied up about $11 million for the project, and the Brazilian Development Bank has given roughly $10 million. The federal government, meanwhile, has contributed $58,000 per year, despite the fact that the museum, Brazil’s equivalent of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, essentially contains—or contained—the country’s national identity.

The exterior renovations were overseen by Rio de Janeiro–based firms Velatura Restaurações and Construtora Biapó, while São Paulo-based firm H+F Architects is handling the interior renovations. The conflagration revealed a number of previously unseen layers within the early-nineteenth-century structure, which has undergone many expansions and modifications during its existence. These layers will be called into play in the redesign, where they will be visible within a modern framework necessitated by the almost complete gutting of the structure. The revamped museum will comprise roughly 60,000 square feet of exhibition space and will be capable of housing 4,000 more objects than the intact structure’s 37,000 square feet, which allowed for the display of 6,000 items. Since the museum saw 85 percent of its collection turn to ash in the blaze (the surviving 15 percent were warehoused), it is relaying on donations from around the world to make up for the lost treasures.

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