Nigerian Museums: Any relevance to the present generation?

Museums are places where history is made tangible. The main purpose of museum is neither to educate nor entertain, it is a memory bank to remind one of the past. No wonder most societies in different parts of the world traced their origin through the works of arts. Museums are collection centers of heritage materials that render invaluable help to unlock memories.

Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monument (NCMM), Abdallah Yusuf Usman classified museum as the central bank of cultural resources that stores several works of arts for posterity use.

In his words, “The museum is the central bank of cultural resources, a collection of memories about man’s way of life, his achievements and progress over time”

From 1950s to date, over twenty museums have been created to help in the managing of cultural materials which are mostly artifacts and ethnographic materials found within Nigeria.

There is virtually no museum in Nigeria that prove to be different from other ones in terms of their activities base on the purpose they were established. By definition, the museums in Nigeria are often viewed as cultural resource centres charged with responsibility to collect, store and showcase to the public the cultural materials of the ancient days. In view of this, the museums are mostly stock with antiquities most of which their photographs are seen in books and other public historical documents.

Speaking on the relevance of museums to the present generation, Mrs Oluwakemi Malomo, a business woman in Lagos said, “The patronage of Nigeria museums is on the downward trend. Nigerians are no longer curious about their past. In our days, we relish the memory of going to museum and it was an exciting time”

“In comparism to developed countries where museums are tourist attractions, museums in Nigeria remain desolate and underutilized. When you mention museum now, a lot of youths are likely going to look askance if not look at you as old school. The mention of Shoprite, Mama Cass, Domino and others will easily excite them more than museum. Most Nigerians are not interested in our museums anymore. It is unfortunate that the present generation is not tapping into the rich history the museum has to offer”, Malomo said.

In his own response, Nwachukwu Ephraim, a legal solicitor with Nwachukwu and Co, Lagos stated that, “In developed countries, museums provide the prime function of offering enjoyable and rewarding stimulation for individual minds in their hours of freedom from their daily chores. It is not surprising that such museums in Europe and America now make millions of Euros and dollars yearly either through admission charges and or sales of books, pamphlets, paintings, casts and other souvenirs.

“The very rich and diversified fauna and flora and other natural history resources in tropical Africa provide readily available materials for exhibition in our museums. The impact of this to tourism which is an important service-offer to the outside world is then obvious.

Dr Yomi Akindele Oscar, a lecturer at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State said, “It is an established fact that Nigeria is a country of rich natural history. It is however unfortunate to note that the native fauna and flora, most especially the former are relatively unknown and much worse is the fact that a sizeable amount of what is known can be found only in collections and other works housed in museums situated outside the Africa continent.

“Yet an adequate number of the of the natural history objects is very vital for any effective and judicious utilization of these resources. Furthermore, it is no gain saying that a natural history museum is the natural soul of a nation. This is because the natural history objects are significant objects of any nation as they can reveal the past, inform us about the present and predict the future.

“The existence and meaningful development of the Museum therefore is imperative for a nation which is aspiring to be industrially, scientifically and technologically great. The National Museum, if properly organised, well developed and adequately financed can be a source of fund generation for the nation. This can be achieved through provision of identification services to individuals and organisations as well as sales of photographs, paintings, models and casts of natural history objects.

He was of the opinion that the Nigeria people want to have renewed ways of approaching cultural issues. He said, “at the moment, it appears that Nigerian museums must diversify in their cultural programmes in serving the public. This is because the traditional role of collection, housing and showcasing to the public is fast becoming un-motivating to the general public. It is pertinent that the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) as an umbrella body of public museums in Nigeria should look toward making polices that will rejuvenate museums. New cultural programmes involving youths should be carried out to improve public patronage”, he added.

Top Five Museums in Nigeria

Nigerian National Museum, Lagos

Founded in 1957, the Nigerian National Museum has a remarkable collection of Nigerian arts, cultures, archeological and ethnographic exhibits. There you will find pieces of carvings, historical statues and monuments. The museum is located in Onikan, Lagos. The museum is a must-see and even if you have already been there, it definitely worth a second visit.

Jos Museum

Jos Museum was founded in 1952 and it is situated near the Jos Zoo in the heart of the city. If you want to learn more about the prehistoric culture of Nigeria, you need to visit Jos Museum. The museum offers collections such as Nok terracotta heads – sculptures dating as far back as 500 B. C. You will also find a collection of finely crafted pottery in the Pottery Hall inside the museum. Other collections displayed are mining exhibitions of the olden days. The unique exhibits in the museum will definitely add to your vacation experience and leave you enchanted.

National War Museum, Umuahia

Nominated among the seven wonders for tourists in Nigeria, the National War Museum is a great tourist attraction located in Umuahia, Abia State. The museum comprises of the Armed Forces gallery, the civil war gallery and the traditional warfare gallery. There you will find Ojukwu Bunker, Nigeria civil war weapons, materials related to Niger Delta conflicts, Aba Women Riot and Enugu Coal Miner Riots, and other relics such as local bombs also known as Ogbunigwe. The War Museum is a dingy reminder of the evils of war. The War Museum brings back the memories of the dark days of Civil War. One will discover the impact of war and conflicts on Nigeria’s history and reputation in this museum.

National Museum, Benin City

This museum is located in the heart of the city, around the King’s square. Founded in 1973, The National Museum in Benin has a notable collection of intrinsic artworks such as bronze sculptures, terracotta, cast iron pieces that represents stones of the Old Benin Empire. The museum exhibits great Benin artworks that reveal the history and culture of Benin. You’ll leave the Benin Museum with a great understanding of the Benin Culture and history of Benin Kingship.

National Museum, Kaduna

Located in Kaduna, the National Museum offers collection of many archaeological and ethnographic artifacts such as terracotta statuettes and Benin bronzes. You will also find a traditional craft village located within the Museum premises, where you will see creative art crafts and even watch craftsmen at work. You will definitely enjoy this ever-changing craft exhibition that will leave you inspired and give you creativity zeal.

Published in Daily Times on April 14, 2015