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How Nelson-Atkins protects its pieces from being destroyed in fires

Posted at 9:38 PM, Sep 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-04 23:23:31-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pieces spanning centuries were recently destroyed in a fire at Brazil's National Museum, which had 41 Action News wondering how museums in Kansas City plan to prevent a similar tragedy. 

Julian Zugazagoitia, director and CEO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, visited Brazil's National Museum.

"The building is so vast and beautiful and all of a sudden, seeing it in flames like that it's unbelievable," Zugazagoitia said. "How something that looks so regal and palatial can be destroyed so quickly."

More than 200 years of work and millions of specimens were turned to dust in a massive fire Sept. 2. Some of the embers burned for days.

When asked if a fire of this magnitude could happen here, Zugazagoitia explained that, "This building and the classic building were designed as museums so that also has made sure that our systems are up to the most stringent codes."

That includes things like flame-retardant paint, cameras that can isolate any fire in the museum and treat it accordingly, doors that can close off to prevent the spread of any flames and the fact that the Nelson-Atkins staff gets annual training to protect themselves and the collection.

As heartbreaking as the situation in Brazil is, Zugazagoitia is encouraged because he feels, "It is, I think, a moment to get an awareness of how quickly your cultural history can disappear. Maybe this is a time to invest and super invest in cultural institutions and their infrastructure."