On the night of September 2, 2018, a blaze swept through Brazil's national museum, Museu Nacional, in Rio de Janeiro, destroying not only the colonial building, portions of which dated to the sixteenth century, but roughly 92 percent of the 20 million objects in its holdings. This was Brazil's greatest encyclopedic museum, incorporating (among many others) collections of natural history, anthropology, archaeology, and art, thus forming the most comprehensive museum collection in the nation. Along with its many unique and irreplaceable collections, the Museu Nacional was also home to the country's oldest Indigenous Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian materials (fig. 1).

With origins in the nineteenth century, the museum developed from the Portuguese Royal collections and libraries brought to Rio in 1808, after the court fled the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal at the end of 1807. Dom João VI donated the natural history specimens that constituted the core collections of...

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