Arch in the Pátio dos Canhões do Museu Histórico Nacional. Photo: Alessandra Sant'Anna/Wikimedia Commnos
Arch in the Pátio dos Canhões do Museu Histórico Nacional. Photo: Alessandra Sant'Anna/Wikimedia Commons

A bizarre underground dispute has put Brazilian museology on the warpath this week. On one side are historians, researchers and employees of the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram), an agency linked to the Special Secretariat for Culture of the federal government. On the other hand, sorry this sounds like a series teaser Star Wars, is… the Empire.

Ibram is the entity that brings together all 30 federal museums. The servers of these federal museums released on Tuesday, 25, a petition open to the population whose objective is to ensure that the first place in the public notice is appointed as director of the National Historical Museum (MHN), at Praça Marechal Âncora, in Rio. of public call released on September 10, 2021, Luciana Conrado Martins, historian and doctor in education from USP. More than 1,5 people had already signed the document by this Thursday, January 27.

The official result was published almost four months ago by the president of Ibram, Pedro Machado Mastrobuono and, although there is a two-year interim term at the institution, it has not been respected until now. Another public selection had already been canceled by the government, without much explanation. The museum, which celebrates a century since its foundation this year, is one of the most important institutions in the country's history, with around 300 items. The signatories of the petition ask that the collegiate board of Ibram defend the national policy on museums. This Thursday, the 27th, the Federal Council of Museology (Cofem) also spoke about the case, releasing a note asking Ibram to comply with the law and appoint the director chosen in public selection.

What can be deduced that is behind such an attempt at a “coup”?

It so happens that one of the factions that make up the politbureau The cultural heritage of the government of Jair Bolsonaro is monarchist, led by the group headed by Bertrand de Orléans and Bragança, which claims to be heir to the former Brazilian throne (he would be the great-great-grandson of D. Pedro II and the great-grandson of Princess Isabel). This current aspires to have a historical museum under its control, to spread its theses. Their first move did not work: a few years ago, the monarchists used an important coreligionist who was then Minister of Foreign Affairs, former minister Ernesto Araújo, to claim control of another centenary institution – in this case, the National Museum of Rio, in full reconstruction after being burned in a fire in 2018. The plan failed after Araújo fell (and the scientific community also largely rejected the move to the top of the institution).

Access hall to the 2nd floor. Equestrian sculpture in plaster of D. Pedro II, by Francisco Manoel Chaves Pinheiro and carriage. Photo: Halley Pacheco de Oliveira/Wikimedia Commons.
Access hall to the 2nd floor. Equestrian sculpture in plaster of D. Pedro II, by Francisco Manoel Chaves Pinheiro and carriage. Photo: Halley Pacheco de Oliveira/Wikimedia Commons.

But the monarchists continue with allies in the government, such as the president of the Palmares Foundation, Sérgio Camargo (who is trying to change the name of the institution he presides over to Fundação Princesa Isabel), and who calls Bertrand “highness”. Another of their strengths: they managed to appoint as Superintendent of the Institute of National Historic and Artistic Heritage (Iphan) in Rio de Janeiro their supporter Olav Antonio Schrader, habitue of the monarchist soirees and subject of the theses of early national monarchism. Recently, there was a locking of an Afro-Brazilian art collection, the Acervo Nosso Sagrado, at the Museu da República, in Rio, and this action is attributed to the monarchist group led by Schrader (and another extremist in the sector, Pastor Tassos Lycurgo, currently at Iphan, and who arrived at the heritage bodies on the recommendation of Minister Damares Alves). These people are particularly allergic to manifestations of intangible heritage (such as jongo, capoeira, acarajé craft and others), as they are of African origin and have a close relationship with Candomblé.

The servers of the Historical Museum now fear for the imminent appointment of an alumnus of that club. “The non-appointment of a candidate selected by technical criteria violates the Statute of Museums and the public policies of the sector and sets a dark precedent, nullifying the effectiveness and meaning of the existence of a public selection”, says the manifesto of the servers of the National Historical Museum. .

There are several signs that demonstrate that the group is indeed approaching what it wants. On December 27th, she was appointed as the eventual replacement for the next director of the National Museum Patricia Wanzeller, who is a researcher associated with the Brazilian Army and sometimes works on topics related to royalty. Recently, she gave a seminar on the theme “The reminiscences of the Real Archivo Militar: the cartography of the Historical Archive of the Army”. Servers suspect that she may be appointed to the post by the government.

The siege of the National Historical Museum has roots in historical symbolism. The institution was a kind of hothouse for the current national museum policy, in 1932, when the first museum school was created there (and, later, the Inspectorate of National Monuments, the embryo of the current Iphan). Going deeper into history, there is yet another curious synchronicity between the facts – at the time when it functioned as a War Arsenal, the MHN was the scene of an attack on the then President of the Republic, Prudente de Morais. When welcoming the military forces that had subdued Canudos, in Bahia, Morais found himself threatened by a young recruit armed with a garrucha. The gun did not fire, and Marshal Carlos Bittencourt, Minister of War, accompanied by the head of the Casa Militar, detained the boy, whose name was Marcelino Bispo de Melo – another Bishop capriciously planted in the path of politics.

The ideological attacks, of a religious nature and contrary to technical excellence in the Historic Heritage and in the area of ​​museums, led the Cultural Heritage Advisory Council to also disclose this Thursday, 27, a demonstration about the attacks on Iphan. “The institution has been suffering, therefore, government actions, episodic and conjunctural, which, each time, reduce and compromise its mission. Attacks that are part of a strategy to undermine the organ internally and externally. Externally, when the top ruler of the country does not know him or orders the 'ripping' of servants who do not do the will to him or his close ones, ignoring its role as a State institution. Internally, when its technical capacity is reduced through the replacement of competent and qualified employees, who occupied key positions, by people without the necessary previous experience or adequate professional training to perform complex command and leadership tasks. The unjustified suspension of the Professional Master's in Heritage Preservation, a successful experience of training technical staff for the field of preservation and started 17 years ago, is another indicator of this strategy", says the document, signed by intellectuals, experts and researchers such as Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, Márcia Sant'Anna, Luiz Alberto Freire, Carlos Augusto Calil, Carlos Eduardo Comas, Adriana Schmidt Dias and Angela Gutierrez.

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