Nigerian Museums: What They Offer for the Present Generation

Museums are places where history is made tangible. This means that they (museums) contain relics of cultural materials which have helped scholars in tracing the cultural roots of individual groups within a country or region. The historical stories being read in books, make used of such relics to enhance knowledge (or learnership) of the current generation on the past things or societies that have existed before it. Nigerian museums have a long history and it is closely linked to the helpless nature of things regarding the accidental discovery of certain cultural materials of great value to man. Considering the fact that they (accidentally discovered cultural materials) were disappearing unlawfully against the inherent growth and development of the cultural sector, the need to create a safe place was paramount.

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this, the museums are mostly stock with antiquities most of which their photographs are seen in books and other public historical documents. This makes an indigenous visitor who visits five Nigeria museums to predict the contents of the other museums without necessarily visiting them. Considering this, the patronage of Nigeria museums is on the downward curve.

The most important thing however, is that, Nigerians are no longer curious about there past; rather, they are more concerned about their future. That does not mean that the cultural materials housed in museums located in various states in the country are not relevant. The Nigeria people want to have renewed ways of approaching cultural issues. For example, during my research in 2005, I met an artist who have practiced in Jos for over five years and only visited Jos Museum only once. His argument was that there no new things in Nigeria museums because all the museums he has visited in other states have the same cultural material with just a little modification in the arrangement/set-up. The only exception however, is the War museum in Umuaifa and the Military museum in Zaria.

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. 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.