Brazil’s National Museum on Wednesday announced that its exhibit of old Torah scrolls had been removed before the blaze that gutted the place on Sunday, destroying an estimated 90% of its collection.
According to the museum’s deputy director, the building was not insured.
“The Torah is being kept in a safe place,” said a museum statement that was sent to the Associated Press on Wednesday, noting that the scrolls had been removed close to two years ago, but not revealing where.
The scrolls, nine altogether, dating back to the 1400s, are believed to have originated in Yemen. They were acquired in the early 1800s by Brazil’s last king, Dom Pedro II.
The museum’s library of 500,000 books, kept in a separate building, also survived the blaze, according to a museum spokeswoman, who said it was impossible to determine at the moment how much of the collection had survive. “It could be 10%, it could be 15, it could be 20,” she said. “We had a very big loss.”
The museum’s Egyptology collection was completely destroyed, she said.
The blaze at the 200-year-old National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum, is blamed on cuts in funding and inadequate maintenance. The museum was home to some 20 million items.
According to AP, quoting a Lubavitch official in Rio de Janeiro, the Torah scrolls had been moved to a university library near the museum. The official, Avraham Beuthner, said, “Thank God it’s safe,” noting that the university had promised to let local Jews to see the scrolls.