Important relics such as the institution’s entire Egyptology collection were wiped out.
But all may not be lost thanks to a brand-new crowdsourcing initiative that is trying to save images of artifacts lost in the flames.
Museum workers managed to save some artifacts and other items survived because they were on loan to other institutions. But most of the 20 million objects are unfortunately gone forever.
Constructing a Digital Archive
However, these precious relics from previous centuries still exist in the photos and videos taken by visitors to the museum and so Wikipedia is encouraging them to upload their images to its Wikimedia Commons repository.
This effort is being bolstered by students at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro who have launched their own crowdsourcing project to digitally preserve some of the museum’s many treasures.
They are asking people to send photos, videos and even selfies to any of the three following email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the valuable pieces that are thought to have been destroyed was a 12,000-year-old skull called Luzia that was thought to be one of the oldest fossils found in the Americas.
One of the few items to have been confirmed to have survived is the Bendegó meteorite, the largest iron meteorite to be found in Brazil. It was originally discovered in 1784 by a boy who was looking for a lost cow.