In the ashes: We need to preserve our cultural landmarks


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National Museum in Rio De Janeiro burned down on September 2, 2018.

The world has lost another important treasure. On April 15, a fire tore down a big part of Notre Dame Cathedral, located in Paris, one of the oldest and most famous constructions in the world.

It took some hours till its substantial destruction, almost one day till the fire was completely extinguished and it will take years to forget what happened.

It’s not the first time a cultural landmark has caught on fire, destroying years of irreplaceable heritage. The most recent fire episode resembling Notre Dame’s was the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, on September 2, 2018.

Neither public or private institutions were investing in the preservation or restoration of that museum. Its structure and conservation were so deficient that the people who were working at the museum needed to collect money to help pay for cleaning services.

As found out by official investigations, there were few fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, and no fire-suppression system. Basically, this was a pre-announced tragedy in Brazil due to the mismanagement and negligence of the government.

On the other hand, Notre Dame’s accident was not expected because people were taking care of it. The diocese of the French capital started a 150 million euro restoration, which was supposed to be carried out over the next ten years. After what happened, it might take twice the time they thought it would.

Despite people’s preoccupation in its preservation nowadays, it hasn’t always been like this in the religious symbol history. The 856 years-old cathedral suffered so many times since its construction in 1163, being neglected, used for food storage and almost deactivated by Paris City Hall because no one was preserving its importance.

The big difference between these two tragedies is that Notre Dame was being reformed while the National Museum was not. This leads us to the discussion of the importance of maintaining a country’s culture through its science, arts and architecture centers.

On the fire in Brazil, the most ancient fossil ever found in the Americas, named Luzia, was burned with another 20 million items. Besides, the place where the museum was set was home of Brazil’s royal family in the 19th century and the genesis of Brazilian culture. Now, the museum is the ashes of millennial cultures that are trying to be recovered by a team of specialists.

While the cause of Notre Dame’s accident has not yet been confirmed, we need to understand its consequences and establish prevention plans to these kinds of accidents. One of the ways to make sure national treasures are being preserved is pushing government bodies to do their part in the upkeep on these landmarks.

Society can start to hold French President Emmanuel Macron on his promise of “rebuilding this Cathedral together.” We can work together to changing the mind of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, making him care about his own heritage and its preservation. It’s our obligation to demand these changes to protect our cultural icons because we can not lose centuries of history again.