Wikipedia Is Digitally 'Preserving' Items Destroyed in the Brazil National Museum Fire

One guest-submitted photo of museum artifacts.
One guest-submitted photo of museum artifacts. / Jonas de Carvalho, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Up to 20 million artifacts are thought to have been destroyed in a fire that ravaged Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro last week. While those priceless items can never be recovered, Wikipedia is doing its part to preserve their memory in an online museum of sorts.

The online encyclopedia has made a public plea for crowdsourced photos of objects from the museum, Open Culture reports. In response, thousands of photos of colorful moths, Egyptian mummies, ancient masks, and more have been uploaded to the online archive, which you can view here.

“We’re asking people everywhere to join our global community and help the world recover from this collective tragedy,” Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, wrote of the project.

The building housing the National Museum (Museu Nacional in Portuguese) had been crumbling following massive cuts in government funding, which left it without sprinklers or fire protection systems. It was still an important and beloved institution, though. As Brazil’s oldest museum and Latin America’s largest natural history museum, it contained important historical objects like dinosaur skeletons, Greek vases, audio files of extinct languages, and an 11,500-year-old human skull.

While user-submitted photos are helping to preserve history, few of the photos have any information or description attached to them. Scholars and knowledgeable Wikipedia editors will be needed to fill in the blanks. A group of local students are organizing similar crowdfunding efforts, and other organizations like National Geographic and UNESCO have pledged their support for museum restoration efforts.

[h/t Open Culture]