Museum: Centuries-old Torah Not Burned in Rio Blaze

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According to AP, quoting a Lubavitch official in Rio de Janeiro, the Torah scrolls had been moved to a university library near the museum.

Numerous museum employees reportedly rushed inside the building while the fire raged, hoping to rescue what research they could from their work stations.

Still, Duffek said, the potential loss of such items - and everything else in the museum's collection - is devastating.

The museum's budget had fallen from around $130,000 in 2013 to around $84,000 previous year, according to Marcio Martins, a spokesman for the museum. It was only in 1902 when the museum collections were transferred.

"Just crying doesn't solve anything", Alexander Kellner, the museum's director, told reporters at the scene.

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For example, a set of armour from Alaskan Tlingit territory dating back to the 1700s was taken by Russian collectors and later given to the Portuguese royal family as a gift to solidify a relationship between Russia and Portugal around 1812.

Firefighters found bone fragments from a collection in the still-smouldering National Museum, an official said Tuesday, raising hopes that a famed skull might somehow have survived a massive blaze that turned historic and scientific artefacts to ashes.

Professor Paulo Buckup, an expert in fish science at the museum, told the BBC that he was able to rescue a "tiny" part of the museum's collection of thousands of specimens of mollusks.

The fire comes as campaigning for October's critical presidential vote gets underway, one of the most uncertain Brazilian elections in decades.

"But the feeling I have about the museum is sadness. Now all evidence of their work is lost, their lives have lost meaning, too".

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Some of protesters say they blame the fire, in part, on inadequate maintenance of the building due to government spending cuts. Brazilian President Michel Temer - who has faced quite quite a lot of allegations of graft since coming to vitality in 2016 - promised to raise private and public funds to lend a hand restore the museum and rebuild its collections.

In 2015, the museum was forced to close its doors entirely because it lacked even the funding to pay staff or for minimum service from contractors. However, over the last three years it has received 60 percent or less of this amount. The closure had a lasting impact on attendance, which remained at record lows.

Sa Leitao, who in July 2017 became culture minister under Temer - a deeply unpopular center-right leader - acknowledged that "the tragedy could have been avoided" but said "the problems of the National Museum have been piling up over time".

The Museu Nacional in Rio - one of the largest museums in the Americas - was consumed by fire and irreplaceable objects like the oldest human fossil found in Brazil and a 5.5-ton meteorite found in 1784 are believed to have been lost. However, parts of the building were still burning and continuing to be extinguished at the time of publication.

In a country where the wealth of six men is equivalent to that of 50 percent the population, the destruction of culture is an inevitable byproduct of social inequality.

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