By Saheed Oyinloye
A Museum according to ICOM 2022 , is a not -for-profit , permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public , accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability.
They operate and communicate ethically , professionally and with the participation of communities , offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment , reflection and knowledge sharing. According to Momin and Okpoko(1990), museums are institutions (publicly or privately owned) which collect, preserve and display objects (both natural and cultural) with the basic aim of entertaining, educating and providing materials for research on aspect of man heritage and development. Therefore, the relevance of museum in the 21st century cannot be downplayed.
Factors limiting openness of Nigerian museums to the public
Location is a major factor that affects the accessibility of museums in Nigeria to the public. The museums located on the outskirt of the town will discourage visitors and tourist. Therefore, museums in Nigeria must be situated in city centers in order to make them accessible to visitors from all part of the town.
The architectural design of the museum must be made accessible to all categories of people including special and gifted people. There should be pathway for wheel chairs , provision of braille, auditory display, sign language, exploratory room and other infrastructure for this categories of people. Also lack of museum kitchen, children playing ground are some of the infrastructure that hinder the full utilization of museums in Nigeria.
The price tag matters a lot.The gate fee should be a token that can be affordable to all categories of people. In some countries, the gate fee is free for all but voluntary donation are encouraged. The basis of this is to encourage many visitors to the museum. Some museum in Nigeria charge five hundred naira which may not be affordable for all visitors.
The motive of the people about the museum as a store house of idols have limited its openness to all categories of people. This is because some people purposely cut off themselves from visiting the museum.
Literacy Level of Individuals level of some individual discourage them from visiting the museum. Hence a need for more sensitization in our local dialects for people to understand and enjoy the museum experience.
Insecurity is one of the major factor that scare visitors away from visiting the museum. The fear of being kidnapped for ransom have limited the openness of the museum to the society hence reason for its low patronage.
Low technology advancement such as internet connectivity have limited wide coverage of museum activities and project over a large audience.
The reasons why we need museums now more than ever is because it helps us to learn from the past. It provides an insight into the history of mankind and no museum can claim to provide a complete picture , the lessons we can learn from the past events , wonders and tragedies are priceless. Therefore , it help the public to re-establish common grounds and learn to build bridges rather than breed division. The museum have a role to play in giving us perspective through intellectual exercises or merely holding up mistakes of the past as evidence of where such behavior will lead us once more.
Also, the museums can help individuals and groups celebrate what makes them unique. For example the IFA day celebration and spreading the word. Hence important to fall outside the box despite the continued intolerance of some.
It bring communities together as it has the power to create unity on both social, political and local level. Local museums are able to provide a sense of community and place by celebrating a collective heritage , offering a great way to get to know the history of a particular area. Moreover, the museum can bring people together in more literal way through public events , workshops and lectures.
Museums stand firm in the face of adversity. Taking a firm stand means that a museum exposes itself to criticism from those who disagree with their exhibits. And in some cases, criticism can boil over into something much worse.
It acts as hub for digitalization, innovation and interaction. The rise of technology over the last two decades, have questioned and challenged museums. However modern technology is transferring museums from spaces of learning and looking to spaces of interaction, participation and engagement. Also virtual exhibition , virtual reality, digital guides, use of hand held devices among others are employed by museums in the 21st century to communicate to the world. We need museums because their future is so full of possibility and opportunity and more people than ever can access them.
Museums educate future generations: the museums and other cultural institutions will always have a role to play in educating future generations. From creating exhibitions targeted towards children to teaching children in a quasi-classroom environment, institutions around the world are doing their bit to pass down knowledge. Semper in 1990 described a museum as “an educational country fair” and this is more than true today than ever. Also traditional museum spaces are offering interactive exhibitions and opportunities for children through many outreach and school programme.
Museums in Nigeria need to be sited in city centers to increase its accessibility and popularity. This will stimulate awareness and increase the visitor statistics to the museum. Therefore, there should be agitation and law that museum must be located in the heartbeat of any town or city in Nigeria.
The architectural design of the museum in Nigeria should favor everybody irrespective of their physical challenges. This will add value to the museum visitors’ statistics. Thereby forming a museum of inclusiveness and sustainability to meet the vision of the 21st century.
The price tag of the museum should be made affordable to everyone despite their social status. This will make the museum to be readily available to all and not the rich alone.
Security should be readily made available so that unforeseen security breaches does not happen when visitors come to the museum. A guaranteed safety is factor that will improve visitors to the museum. The use of modern technology and its opportunities will open the museum to the world hence digitalizing museum operations will not only add value or increase the museum audience but bring financial benefits.
The conception of the museum as a place of idol worship can be corrected through its sensitization programmes and awareness. Also the museum should ensure its display are done both in languages understood by the locals and foreigners in order to captivate their interest in museum programmes.
The key to reconstructing our Africa lives and societies lies not in neglecting our past as if it never happened but in accepting the past not only as the source of generation but the source of regeneration. Therefore, a need for Nigerian museums to adhere to the 21st century advancement to open the museum to the globe. This will enable them re-write our history rather depend on what was written on our behalf by colonial masters. Arguably, the museums in Nigeria are not fully opened to the public hence a lot still need to be done to achieve this great feat.