A huge blow to the city of São Paulo and Portuguese-language enthusiasts everywhere, the Museu da Língua Portuguesa (Museum of the Portuguese Language) went up in flames on Monday, December 21. The museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to a single language, and a cherished cultural heritage site both for its contents and its location in the Estação da Luz, a train station built at the turn of the last century. The museum boasts an incredible archive, an impressive multimedia presentation of the history of the Portuguese language, and an interactive 33-meter timeline highlighting the changes that Portuguese underwent as it came into contact with Amerindian and African languages in the context of Brazil. Aside from its permanent collection, the museum exhibited fascinating temporary collections dedicated to particular authors and movements from the Lusophone literary tradition.
The fire destroyed the majority of the museum, starting on the first floor and burning through the wooden structure to the top level. The cause of the fire is unknown. While the museum was closed to the public at the time of the fire, one museum employee died from smoke inhalation.
The museum’s curator, Isa Ferraz, called the fire “a tragedy.” She told O Globo, “The museum is the fruit a multidisciplinary team’s effort to create something entirely new. The museum shifted paradigms and became an international reference. It was revolutionary not only for its use of technology and format, but also for the way it engaged with the Portuguese language. We have all the archives of all the content.”
Ferraz commented that, fortunately, the museum has digital back ups of a large portion of the archive.
The museum was inaugurated in March 2006 after several years of collaboration among 30 sociologists, museologists, specialists in the Portuguese language, and artists.