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Complementing roles of museum to education

By Florence Oke

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Education in museum is a life long, active, lively, participative and innovative venture. Its nature is influenced by many factors. Firstly, the resources, a vast range of audience/visitors and methods use to impart educational experiences.

Museum education is the totality of the educational activities undertaken by a museum to effectively communicate with the public using heritage resources as its guide and catalyst.

Consequently, museum education is now acknowledged in the museum world as a vital and integral part of all well managed museums and in the disciple of education as an essential aspect. The type of education provided in the museum is informal in nature, and it is basically complementary to the formal education which takes place in schools and other formal institutions. Given its vital role as complementary to formal education, it is necessary for a concrete programme of collaboration to be put in place between museum and formal educational institution in Nigeria.

Scope of Museum Education Services

Exhibition is one of the medium of communication with the public which the education officer must explore. People who visit the museum learn through various ways by examining the objects and reading the texts connected with them. The Education Department of the museum is committed in its programmes, activities and exhibition in providing the museum visitors/audience with approaches to art which stimulates them to explore works in meaningful way.

These programmes can be divided into two main broad categories:- intra mural and extral mural. Intral are those programmes organized within the museum premises. They include organized Visit, children art club, holiday Activities, Film Show, workshop for Teachers, Security, Organizations, lectures, skill acquisition workshop e.g. Bead Making, Tie & dye e.t.c, drama, debate, quiz competition, traditions games etc.

Extral mural are programmes organized outside the museum premises. They are Museum Education School Service (outreach), Formation of Museum/History Club in Schools, Museum Society and excursions.

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Other programmes provided in some museums with auditorium are socio-cultural programmes like live bands, drama and dance performances by cultural groups who often re-enact historical events of various Nigerian communities. There are also frequent temporary art exhibitions in  various museums to help promote up-and-coming young artist.

The Museum collection presents a vast resource potential for the range of subjects taught in our secondary schools in Nigeria. The relevance of these museum collections to the specific studies is most discernable in the various fields of human endeavours covered by the various collections, as exhibited in the galleries. As to the relationship of schools to the museum, we may have to examine the relevance of the museum collections vis-à-vis some of the subjects taught in our schools.

History: History is the study of the activities of men through the ages. Museum as past remembering, present observing and future looking institution provides students/pupils of history a forum for their cultural rediscovery and cultural reassertion of its nation and its people. In some museums objects of historical values such as stone axe, stone chisel, grinding stone, pictures of colonial rulers, past Nigeria rulers, photographs of slaves, materials of civil war, materials used by previous traditional rulers are on display. These ethnographic materials tells stories of historical importance which helps to supplement both the oral and literary records to both students and teachers of history.

Government: Pictorial exhibition of Nigeria governments, yesterday and today is a good sources of information for preparing supplementary lectures or visuals for teaching various types of governments that ruled Nigeria from the pre-colonial times to the present day.

Agriculture: Exhibition of various agricultural implements such as sickle, tapping knife, hoe, fishing net etc. that abound in some museums can be used in teaching agriculture.

Art and Craft: Most of the museum objects are products of art and craft. The museum provides a vivid example of what craft entails and also illustrative of the process involved in making an object. Therefore, the collection provides a practical framework for the teaching of arts and craft in schools. Other areas that could be effectively taught using museum resources include arts of Nok, Igboukwu, Ife, Owo, Benin and Tsode. Tie and dye, pottery, carving and bronze casting can also be handled in the museum.

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Business Studies: Objects like cowries, manila, iron bars and various articles of trade that were the hallmarks of the economies of past ages and also illustrate the development of currency in Nigeria abound in the museum.

Apart from the museum objects on display, another resource of museum that is of much relevance to school curriculum is that of its professional staff. The museum individuals who by virtue of their training and experience have gained vast knowledge in museum work. Some of these staff include: Archaeologist, Curators, Ethnographers, Education Officer, Conservators, Accountant, Surveyors, Heritage/Monuments officer etc. The relevance of these class of museum workers to school curriculum and learning process in the school lie in their expert knowledge and skill in aspects of the various subject taught in the school. In view of their professional callings, they may be invited to visit schools and give talk or lecture on topics that fall within their fields.

The museum today, wherever it may be situated and whatever its type of collections offer to its visitors an opportunity to find out about himself, the world about him, his forefathers or his world neighbours. No one museum or gallery tells the whole story but each one judiciously tells part of it. Is he curious about the casting metal? This and many other questions like this can be answered in the museums which contain general or specialized collections in all the fields of human knowledge. For young or old alike, museum exhibits gives an understanding of the continuity of human endeavours and relate our everyday life, our trade and profession to the long history of peoples throughout the world. At the same time, the opportunity to see actual objects, which are the products of man’s skill and inventiveness, the visual manifestation’s of his mental and spiritual beliefs, clarifies concepts and idea often left dim and hazy.

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However, far from being merely a store house or even a ‘treasure house’ of the past, the Museum of today may offer that vital spur of curiosity and imagination without which progress, new invention, new thinking and planning are impossible. Obviously then if these things are true, a museum and its collections are a most vital and valuable educational resources of any community, but it can only serve its purpose and reach its highest goal if members of the community are aware of its value.

From the above aforementioned facts, we can see the museum as a classroom, laboratory, library and art studio where scholars gather experiences and vivid illustrations, which help to complement the oral and literary facts in possession of the students.

However, this very important educational resource has not been given its proper recognition in this country. It is not uncommon to find a Nigeria child going through the primary school to the university without ever visiting the museum. Even our educational planners do not see the museum as having any role to play in education. The school teacher does not know where the museum is located or what is in the museum, so he does note considers it important to bring his pupils or students to the museum. The relationship of museum to the educational system begins at the pre-school stage and continued up to and beyond the Doctorate level.

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