Like a Phoenix, The National Museum of Brazil will soon rise from the ashes of the fire that destroyed 90 percent of its artifacts on September 2, thanks to an unlikely partner: the Chinese e-commerce giant Tencent Holdings.

Brazil’s oldest scientific institution — which housed over 20 million historical objects — and the Chinese tech company signed an agreement at the Brazilian embassy in Beijing on November 16 that will bring the museum’s digital archives online. Tencent will recreate the museum’s artifacts with its stored digital information in what the company is calling “Rebirth of Luzia – The Digital National Museum of Brazil.” Tencent is planning to launch the project sometime in 2019.

national museum of brazil fire

A fire on September 2 destroyed more than 90 percent of the items on display. Photo: Shutterstock

“Tencent and the National Museum of Brazil will also invite Chinese tourists to share images, videos or other records [from]… previous visits to the museum, in order to help in restoring the cultural relics,” according to a joint press release.

The digital re-creation will use Tencent Lens, an image recognition feature of the company’s QQ Browser that’s similar to Google’s image search. The online museum will provide virtual visitors with information on the artifacts. Tencent will also provide access to the artifacts through a WeChat mini-program called “Mr. Bowu” (博物官), which will include audio guides.

Tencent expects Chinese tourists who have visited the National Museum of Brazil to submit photos and videos to help with creating the digital restoration

The museum has also received offers from other Chinese companies to help rebuild the physical structure of its building in Rio de Janeiro, Chinese state media Xinhua reported. Hanergy, a privately-owned Chinese solar company, offered assistance in providing alternative energy.

National Museum of Brazil director Alexander Kellner said that the 200-year-old museum could reopen as early as 2021 or 2022. Prior to the fire, the museum  was home to one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts, including Latin America’s oldest human fossil.

national museum of brazil

The museum was home to over 20 million items that showcased the history of the region. Photo: Steffen Kühne from Wikimedia Commons

Brazil saw a slight annual increase in the number of Chinese tourists last year with 61,250, and while China is only the 17th largest source market for Brazilian tourism, the country has made an effort, including visa process reforms, to attract a larger number of long-haul travelers from the country.


Museums & Exhibitions