By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A judge in Rio has given six federally-run museums in Rio de Janeiro thirty days to make improvements in their security system or they will be shut down.

Brazil,A major blaze at Rio's National Museum destroyed thousands of priceless artifacts last week.
A major blaze at Rio’s National Museum destroyed thousands of priceless artifacts last week, photo by Tania Rego/Agencia Brasil.

The order was issued a week after a massive blaze destroyed thousands of priceless artifacts from Rio’s National Museum and a request by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office for the immediate closing of another six museums located in Rio de Janeiro due to possible fire hazards.

Among the museums Federal Judge Geraldine Pinto Vital ordered security improvements in are the museums of the Republic, Villa-Lobos, De la Chacara do Ceu, Do Acude, National Fine Arts and the National Historical Museum.

Judge Vital ordered that the Ibram (Brazilian Museums Institute) and Iphan (Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage) prepare conclusive technical reports on the current electrical and hydraulic conditions of the six museums, “with the immediate adoption of the necessary emergency measures to ensure compliance with the minimum fire and panic safety requirements”.

The judge considered the request by the prosecutor’s office for the closure of museums as ‘drastic’ for both the population and the staff.

The order comes a day after Brazil’s President Michel Temer announced the creation of the Brazilian Museum Agency (Abram) and, consequently, the extinction of the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram).

“We need another legal structure to allow for the acceptance of private resources or donation, that will not affect the budget of public agencies,” explained Planning Minister Esteves Colnago to government news agency Agencia Brasil.

According to Ibram representative, museologist Newton Soares, however, the creation of the agency will serve to ‘increasingly scrap a national museum policy’, by transferring the administration of 27 public museums to organizations with a public-private sphere.

“Taking this management from within the government and moving to other organizations is transforming these 27 museums managed by Ibram into a large over-the-counter (OTC) business. They will be held hostage to the will of the market. You will not have the autonomy to say what the needs are and to guide public policies,” said Soares.

Swedish expatriate living in Rio and operator of destination management service Rio Love Story, Tavi Norén, shares, “After fire destroyed Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum, we have to understand that a similar incident can happen at any time because of bad risk management.”

Adding, “Specifically the fire safety systems, at all historical sights, should be analyzed and improved, considering that at least at the National Museum the system proved to be extremely weak. We need to do everything to protect Brazil’s historical heritage so that we and future generations, Brazilians and visitors, can continue to learn from it and enjoy it.”

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