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CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University's Gerald R. Sherratt Library has made a sizable donation of materials to the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, which was gutted by fire last September.
The museum housed over 20 million invaluable items including Egyptian mummies, dinosaur fossils, the last recordings of regional languages no longer spoken and other irreplaceable historical artifacts. The anthropological library contained a collection of some 37,000 titles.
Richard Saunders, SUU's collections development librarian, decided to help after hearing about the library’s need for assistance through his connections with professional library organizations.
“We made an offer. We were one of only a couple of libraries in the U.S. that made really a substantive donation of material to Brazil,” Saunders said.
Thus far, the SUU Library has made several shipments of a couple of hundred books, of what is anticipated to be an ongoing donation.
Utah anthropologist Alan Schroedl said the recent fire that severely damaged Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral devastated France's "cultural patrimony."
“Last year’s fire at the National Museum of Brazil was just as devastating to the cultural heritage of the people of Brazil," said Schroedl.
Brazilian leaders said 200 years of work, research and knowledge were lost.
Paula Mello, chief librarian of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, issued a call for donations on the internet.
"For the first shipment, Professor Saunders sent over a list of 3,200 titles of which we selected a bit more than 500,” said Carlos Fausto, anthropology faculty member at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Many of these collections given to Brazil were originally donated to SUU by Schroedl. Many of the titles in Schroedl’s collection focus on Brazil and 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.
“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,” he added.