The purpose of this study is to look at the role museums play in the preservation of knowledge.
In doing this, the author tended to discuss briefly the general museum, making specific reference to the national museum of colonial history Aba.
The study pinpoints some of the problems militating against the museum.
It also examines the crucial and inevitable impacts of objects in knowledge preservation and also sees museum as a indispensable agency in the national development.
Finally, the study goes on to recommend possible ways of improving the museum services in Nigeria.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The establishment of museum is significant in ay developing nation like Nigeria where historical record provides a link between the past, the present and the future.
The importance attached to ay museum object derives its value in cultural and historical context which may span over areas such as religion, education, politics, economy and warfare. It is most unfortunate however, that many Nigerians to date have not yet realised the importance of museums to the society.
To such people, museums are associated with artificacts and monuments, which are regarded as old and useless objects. Meant for incineration.
This type of impression attached to museums has such affect that most of the objects which would have been very useful in the general enlightenment and education of the public suffer from deterioration.
The role of museums in the preservation of knowledge – (A case study of National Museum of Colonial History Aba which is the topic of this project) – cannot be well treated if the concept of “knowledge” and “museums” are not understood.
Knowledge is a philosophical concept.
The origin is something which the early philosophers like plato, Aristotle and Honer had tried through various approaches to trace. However, an ordinary meaning of the word “knowledge” is “understanding” “familiarity” gained by experience”.
Although, simple proof shows that knowledge is an impression or of what one had been or (remnants of it). The impression of that object left in the brain or memory is the idea of it, so idea is knowledge.
A museum is defined as a temple, home, resort of the learned, an institution or repository for the collection, exhibition and study of objects of artistic, historic, scientific and educational interest.
2. “It is an institution established to encourage the preservation and discovery of, as far as possible, the deterioration and loss of objects treasured by the society.
Museum originated with man’s interest in collecting, accumulating precious, beautiful and curious objects. The oldest of such collections were privately financed, made by the wealthy or by the church.
Museums in general, do for objects what libraries and archives do for books and Government records respectively. It is necessary to stress here that the society does not tend to preserve her objects just to hoard them, but to preserve them because of their intellectual values.
It is pertinent to note that the most important phenomenon which have influenced the direction of human development and progress are scientific discoveries and warfare of these greater attention has been paid to the preservation and presentation of information relating to the former but less has been done concerning the later. Yet information about scientific episodes and the development of warfare are of equal importance if we are to have a balance view of the course of human development and progress.
Man, from the prehistoric times has always been inquisite. However, there should be no doubt, therefore about the enormous role which historic museum have played in the overall shaping of the society.
Unpleasant and horrible as slavery may seem, the preservation of the relics of colonial history efforts becomes the responsibility of every government that needs to be informed about itself and of course the nation’s development.
The knowledge about human past activities ovide a soud foundation for present day action.
To take no cognisance of this is to black out the past and there is no known society that delights in doing so. It is in this context that the establishment of National Museum of colonial history Aba finds its justification.
The museum and the exhibitions therein, are aimed at preserving the colonial history of Nigeria. The purpose of this work is to enable the public see the historical events that took place before Nigeria gained her independence.
1.2 THE DEVELOPMENT OF MUSEUMS IN NIGERIA
The history of museums in Nigeria pre-dates Arab and European times.
During these periods, various cultural materials of rival. Religious and political importance were fashioned, conserved and preserved in temples or traditional shrines and the palaces of kings and chiefs. Apart from housing such cultural materials like ivory, bronze and carved wooden objects, these institutions (temples, shrines and palaces) were preserved as monuments in their own right.
Some natural features like caves (for example Ogbunike cave in Anambra state) were also maintained as monuments.
Persons responsible for organising and preserving the cultural materials included the head of each household, priests of various shrines and any of the kings or chiefs officers.
In Igbo land, for instance, a head of the household was in charge of his family’s temple. In such temple cultural materials like iron or bronze amulets, wooden statue (Ikenga) or images of deities were kept. The head of the household or (in some cases) priests took care of ritual objects like iron gongs, ivory trumpets, drums as well stone or clay images of deities are kept in the shrines.
These heads or priests acted more or less as curators, taking care of these objects.wooden and iron/bronze staffs, statues and thrones, ceremonial regalia of past kings kept in the royal palaces were taken care of by any of the king’s officers.
In these pre-colonial museums, objects were preserved because of their utilitarian or symbolic value. Some of the objects found in the shrines helped to “concretise” the deities.
However, the development of modern museums began during the colonial period. In 1927, Mr. Kenneth Murray, an art teacher in the British colonial service was appointed to advise the Government “on the effect of the colonial education system on local arts” (Nzewunwa 1984:101). While performing the assignment Murray made a personal collection of several Nigerian art forms. Later he advised the government on the establishment of museums and the proclamation relevant laws to prevent the illegal exportation of Nigerian works art (Murray 1966:32). However, because of the second world war, Murray’s recommendations f or the establishment of museums in three centres in Nigeria could not be implemented. Murray was therefore permitted to continue with the purchase of a permanent centre for preservation of cultural objects.
The Nigerian antiquities service was established on July 28th 1943 in response to appeals by concerned Europeans like Murray and Duck work, on education officer. In 1946, Mr. J.H. Bravnholtz a keeper in the department of Ethnography of the British museum, was sent to Lagos by the colonial office to advise the British Government on the preservations of Nigerian cultural resources. In 1947, Mr. B.E. Faggs, a trained archaeologist was appointed government archaeologist and assistant surveyor of antiquities. Mr. Fagg carried out much archaeological work in Jos Plateau and helped in the establishment of the Jos museum in 1952 in which most of the archaeological materials have been preserved to this day.
The then department of Antiquities and the present National commission for museum and monuments saw to the establishment of museums in different parts of Nigeria to preserve Nigeria’s cultural objects. As of date there are 29 federal museums, including museums in the making (i.e centres) in Nigeria, and at least one in each state.
1.3 THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF COLONIAL HISTORY, ABA
In 1975 it was discovered that the old consulate building of the then eastern central state (6 ikot ekpene road, Aba) was abandoned and in a state of disuse. Mr. Ebenezar Onyoma was appointed as the first head of station and after all the necessary protocol arrangements had been made, the building was transferred to what is now known as the National Museum of Colonial History, Aba, Nigeria.
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
The old consulate building had a unique history because it was pre-fabricated in England and transported in parts to Nigeria in mid-nineteenth century.
The building was first assembled and located at Opobo as the administrative headquarters of the oil river protectorate. It served a dual purpose as the commercial nerve centre of the British trading companies in protectorate and as its administrative command post.
In the course of time, owing to trading/administrative in convenience and poor communications, the consulate was transferred to Akwete.
Akwete had a natural harbour, which suited British colonial interests. The colonial traders/administrators later found that most of the oil and palm kernel which they traded in was concentrated in the hinter land and since they wanted to dominate the trade the necessity for a final move arose. Aba was chosen because the river Asa occupied a strategic position.
The building was dismantled and brought to the new headquarters. The apparently happened 1898, but research subsequently revealed the date as 1902.
The Aba waterside (River Asa) was called Onummiri Opobo. The reason was that at the time the Opobo people admitted this legitimate free trade, the manned the canoes filled with pots. (A pot measure was much bigger than the standard British drum used as containers. A pot was up to two big drums in British measure and was made of wood and iron bars by the Portuguese).
Chief Pepple was known as their leader.
A road was named after him in recognition of the role he played in the trading and urbanization of the settlement of Aba.
The present location of the museum of colonial history was the seat of government. All over business-commercial, administration, the judiciary was conducted from here.
Renovation work on the building as well as the erection of other buildings that would make of the museum complex continued until early 1985. Similarly, a group of ethnographers were assembled who concentrated on the write-ups and collection of materials culture on colonial matters for the purpose of setting up a museum. On 8th March 1985, the museum was officially opened by the then Governor of Imo State, Brigadier General Ike Nwachukwu.
The collections of the museum consist of photographers of historical events, ethnographic objects and archaeological objects. In fact, 80 percent of the collections are historical, in the form of photographs and write-ups. The museum has a total of 415 historical collections, 310 ethnographic objects and 151 archaeological objects that have been inventoried.
The museum is headed by a curator who oversees the affairs of the museum. The museum is made up of 47 staffs and 6 departments namely:
- Directorate of museum
- Heritage and sites
- Education services
- Administration/supplies and
- Finance and account
The parent body is known as National Commission for Museums and Monuments.
THE MAIN EXHIBITIONS
The old consulate building, a monument and a museum in itself, houses a total of 223 photographs and 64 objects in the gallery on permanent exhibitions.
This main exhibition is divided into eight bays a nd the subject is divided eight main themes;
1) Before colonization: The Atlantic slave trade and its suppression.
2) Prelude to alien role: explorers, missionaries traders
3) Southern Nigerian’s trading companies and the early British administration; the trade consul.
4) Northern Nigerian’s emirs and the early British encounter, the Sokoto, Kano, Bida and Nufe campaign.
5) The verification of North and South (amalgamday) the indirect role and Lord Luggard.
6) The rise of Nigerian Nationalism. The gravity representative institutions, the formation of political parties, Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, The Sardavna of Sokoto.
7) Prelude to independence: The three constitutions
8) Independence achieved.
Through the photographic display of historical events in chronological order, an understanding of the colonial history of Nigeria is made accessible to both casual visitors and serious students.
Besides, making understanding easy, This method of presentation of any subject that is the visual method, in parts a feel for the subject, in addition to knowing it. This enables the events to come alive in a simple natural setting.
The purpose of this work is to look at the role of museum in preservation of knowledge making specific reference to the national museum of colonial history, Aba.
The project is also aimed at stimulating discussions on some of the issues raised so that museum can play its proper role and also to enable the public understand what that role is.
This study will among other things examine the following:
(a) The reasons for setting the museum at Aba
(b) Find out the extent to which recession in the economy of the country affected the growth and management of the museum.
(c) Find out the significance of the museum to the country.
(d) Find out the various processes involved in the collection of the objects.
(e) Identity the major problems militating against the effective use of the museum.
(f) Attempt suggestions on how these problems could be alleviated.
1.5 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The specific objectives of the study are as follows:
1) To ascertain the existence of preservation programme in the museum under study.
2) To find out if they have a preservation policy.
3) To determine the strategies use in preserving knowledge
4) To fin out if they collaborate with other heritage institutions in the preservations of knowledge.
5) To find out the challenges experienced in the course of preserving knowledge.
Although, there is quite a handful of museum as scattered all over the country but considering the purpose of the study, the researcher has limited the work only to the National Museum of colonial history Aba. In spite of the numerous museums in the country, this paper based on general observations and data collected from the national museum Aba. This was necessary so that an indepth study could be made within the time available for this project.
The major areas of concentration include the management and collections of the museum.
1.7 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:
1. Is there any preservation programme in your museum?
2. Do you have a preservation policy?
3. What are the strategies used in the preservation of knowledge?
4. Do you collaborate with other institutions to preserve knowledge?
5. What are the problems usually encountered in the course of preserving knowledge?