Nigerian museums and their untapped opportunities


About 850 million and 600 million people visits American and Chinese museums respectively, every year. These countries make several billions of dollars from these visits. Aside from the revenue the nations make from tourists, their citizens (traders) also make ends meet from proceeds they generate from local items they sell at the tourist centres.
Meanwhile, both local and foreign tourism experts have confirmed that Nigeria has more lucrative museums, compared to several developed nations. And this is attributed to the rich cultural heritage of the most populous black nation in the world.
Confirming the claims of these experts last year, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, decried the poor state of the nation’s museums that are supposed to generate about 40 per cent of her total revenue. The diplomat was bitter after he found out that almost all the 45 museums across the country are in bad shape and are poorly funded.
According to him, this is the reason that the centres have not been able to contribute any meaningful revenue to the purse of the Federal Government. If the nation is really serious and determined about its diversification of the economy, the international peacemaker insisted that savaging the museums and making them revenue generation entities should be on the priority list of the Federal Government.
“A lot of people make fortunes from Nigerian artefacts displayed abroad and the unfortunate thing is that nothing is happening at home,” he lamented.
To start with, he insisted that history, which was hitherto removed from the nation’s school curriculum should be reinstated and the Federal Government should redouble its efforts in reviving the teaching of history in government schools. He noted that since independence, Nigeria has promoted African culture in the continent and in the Diaspora, adding that museums have a critical role to play in development and pride of Nigeria.
“Museums have priceless collections such as Nok terra cotta, Benin bronze, Ife bronze, Igbo Ukwu and the third man made craft–Dufuna canoe to show the world. The international exhibition – 2000 years of Nigerian Art, organised by the museum in London some 40 years ago, was a hugely successful one because it opened the eyes of Europe to the fact that Nigeria has history. There is the inestimable value of artefacts in the museums of Nigeria. The museums are important, because there are different artefacts that represent and tell the story and culture of the Nigerian people as well as promote cultural aspirations,” he added.
Also, the Director General of the National Commission of Museums and Monuments, Mallam Yusuf Usman, classified museums as the central bank of cultural resources that store several works of arts for posterity.
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.
“There is virtually no museum in Nigeria that proves to be different from other ones in terms of their activities, based on the purpose for which they were established. By definition, the museums in Nigeria are often viewed as cultural resource centres, charged with the responsibility of collecting, storing and showcasing to the public the cultural materials of the ancient days.
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.
“When you mention museum now, a lot of youths are likely going to look askance, if not look at you as old school. I am sure some may even ask you what the meaning of museum is. Just mention Shoprite, Mama Cass, Domino and others, you will notice the excitement on their faces. 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.”
The Chief Executive Officer, 247 Travels, Mr. Promise Adigwe, observed that museums in developed nations 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, offered to the outside world, is then obvious,” he added.
In all, the experts agree that it is pertinent that the National Commission for Museums and Monuments as an umbrella body of public museums in Nigeria should look towards making polices that will rejuvenate the nation’s museums.