Like many of you, we at History Factory took the opportunity to switch off the news and focus on our family and friends over Labor Day weekend. However, one news item caught our attention. It took place nearly 5,000 miles away, in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil’s National Museum experienced a catastrophic fire, as reported by CNN and other news outlets. The blaze is reported to have wiped out more than 20 million pieces of history. Included in the irrecoverable damage was the 12,000-year-old skeleton known as Luzia Woman, one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
The tragedy will undoubtedly lead to global reviews of fire safety procedures by museums and other exhibitors. Our hope is that it will also lead to renewed focus on ensuring that historical artifacts are captured using advanced augmented reality and virtual reality and digitization tools. For example, the process that UNESCO followed with its World Heritage sites combined crowdsourcing, advanced digital technologies and a remarkable passion for preservation to create a secure record of various historic sites and cultural monuments. If the unthinkable happens, having a digital version of an artifact ensures it is not lost forever.
As a company founded on the importance of history as a driver of the future—and staffed with a mixture of historians, archivists, curators and creatives—we mourn the loss of such a rich vein of history. Our sympathies go out to the people of Brazil, who have lost an irreplaceable national treasure.