After it closed for the night on Sunday, a devastating fire engulfed Rio de Janeiro’s Museu Nacional, the country’s oldest and most significant scientific institution. It’s believed that much of the museum’s 20 million artifacts have been destroyed, including Luzia, one of the oldest human fossils from South America. Luiz Duarte, one of the museum’s vice directors, told TV Globo, “It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education.”
The loss of such an important establishment has sparked feelings of anger, lament, and shock. As many blame the government for not properly investing in the Museo Nacional and accuse the current administration of trying to erase their history, others are looking for ways to help. And while, many of these pieces can never be replaced, students at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro are hoping to build a digital archive of sorts. They’re asking visitors to send them videos, photos, and even selfies so that they can “in some way revive the memory of this place,” according to O Globo.