Ash is still blowing through the park surrounding Brazil’s National Museum, which continues to tally its losses. According to the deputy director at the museum, a 200-year-old Rio de Janeiro institution, the fire that burned down much of the building two weeks ago may have consumed 90 percent of the collection.
That’s thousands, maybe millions, of objects — incomprehensible numbers.
It’s always easier to think in smaller terms, specific examples. The museum preserved documentation of indigenous languages for which there are no longer any living native speakers, as The New York Times has reported. Every one of those records apparently went up in smoke, taking with it a culture, a civilization, the story of a life, a chapter of us.