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At the end of the Empire there was a stone: science, politics and territory in the images of the Bendegó meteorite (1870-1889)

Abstract

The Rio de Janeiro National Museum recently caught fire, destroying a collection of 20 million objects. The next day, during the searches, a discovery: at least one piece had been saved. The so-called "Bendegó" meteorite, a huge block of iron, had resisted the flames. The image of the intact meteorite amid the wreckage circulated in newspapers around the world. It would become something of a symbol of the Museum's struggle for survival. However, in the late 19th century the Bendegó was quickly raised to the center of political culture, scientific culture and also the visual culture of Brazilian Empire.This project aims to show that the Bendegó meteorite was part of the Empire's last scientific and cultural effort. And it was perhaps one of the most successful case of image propagation in the period. The expedition organized to fetch the meteorite to Rio de Janeiro, the travel album and the dissemination of its image in the international scene - which occurred in various ways but had a remarkable moment in the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition - were part of bigger project. This project was connected to the tradition of nineteenth-century scientific expeditions, on the one hand, and with the goal of building a civilized and "scientific" image for the Brazilian empire, on the other. Painting and photography, representation of territory and landscape, art and science are some of the subjects that the images of Bendegó depicted. This project shall address those themes too. (AU)

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