SUU makes significant donation of books to destroyed National Museum of Brazil

Man in library, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Gerald R. Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University is one of the few organizations in the U.S. to make considerable donations of materials to the National Museum of Brazil after a devastating fire last year.

Books on Brazil that were donated to the National Museum of Brazil from the Gerald R. Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, Cedar City News

The National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was destroyed in a nighttime fire on Sept. 2, 2018. The museum housed over 20 million invaluable items, including Egyptian mummies, dinosaur fossils, the last recordings of regional languages – which are no longer spoken – and other irreplaceable historical artifacts. The anthropological library itself was home to a collection of 37,000 titles.

Richard Saunders, SUU collections development librarian, heard about the library’s need for help through his connections with various professional library organizations and immediately decided to take action, according to a press release from the university. He recruited the SUU Gerald R. Sherratt Library to help supply materials to rebuild this library.

“We see how cultural patrimony of a country can be devastated with the Notre Dame Cathedral blaze,” said Utah anthropologist Alan Schroedl said in the press release. “Last year’s fire at the National Museum of Brazil was just as devastating to the cultural heritage of the people of Brazil.”

Michel Temer, then president of Brazil, said 200 years of work, research and knowledge were lost in the fire. He called the incident a “sad day for all Brazilians.”

“Our Chief Librarian Paula Mello posted a call for donations on the internet,” said Carlos Fausto, anthropology faculty member at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “Exactly a week later, she received a message from Richard. For the first shipment, Professor Saunders sent over a list of 3,200 titles of which we selected a bit more than 500.”

This donation of materials is an ongoing project with Brazil. The SUU Library has made several shipments of a couple of hundred books so far.

“We made an offer,” Saunders said. “We were one of only a couple of libraries in the U.S. that made really a substantive donation of material to Brazil.”

Many of these collections given to Brazil were originally donated to SUU from Schroedl. Many of the titles in his collection are focused on Brazil and its surrounding areas.

“I am very pleased that some of the anthropology books that I donated to SUU will be sent to Brazil to help them start rebuilding their library,” Schroedl said. “It will require years of worldwide cooperation to help rebuild the collections at the National Museum of Brazil.”

The Gerald R. Sherratt Library has also sent several books that are now out of print. Those harder to find books are invaluable to any library, according to the press release.

“Good things happen when people are willing to stand up and do things for simple reasons,” Saunders said. “Nobody’s going to make any money off of this, but I’m hoping that it will do something good for a country that really has given a lot anthropologically to modern day society.”

For more information about the SUU Library, you can visit its website. To learn how you can help with the efforts in Brazil, visit the American Anthropological Association’s website.

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