By Tajudeen Sowole
When the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) rolls out the drums before the end of the year to mark seven decades of its existence, a landmark exhibition of 70 top cultural objects will be on display. It’s an event specifically designed to celebrate the culture agency in its preservation of Nigeria’s heritage.
|Director-General of NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman (right); Director of Admin and Supplies, Mr. Emeka Omiegbo and Artistic Director and Ag Director, Museum, Mr. Peter Odey… in Lagos.|
While flagging off the event in Lagos, the Director-General of NCMM, Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman stated that the celebration, which will hold in Abuja before the end of the year is to highlight the existence of the government agency in seven decades. Set up by decree 77 of 1979, NCMM replaced the Federal Antiquities Department and had the responsibility to manage the collection, documentation, conservation and presentation of national cultural properties to the public for the purposes of education, enlightenment and entertainment.
From Federal Antiquity Department in 1945 to NCMM, the agency has been preserving Nigeria’s cultural objects and monuments. At its 70th celebration, NCMM, according to Usman, has the objectives to articulate impact of 70 years’ existence on Nigerians, increase awareness on the value of museum as well as "seek greater cooperation with our international partners," among other objectives.
The landmark exhibition, according to Usman features "70 iconic objects drawn from various Nigerian art traditions such as Dufuna, Nok, Ejaghan, Calabar, Igbo Ukwu, Ife, Benin, Esie, Owo, Tada," among others. He added that the exhibition would highlight "similarities in our differences thereby promoting national unity."
Included in the events are publications on museums, monuments and other heritage sites of Nigeria as well as a research journal on museum in Nigeria: Sustainability and challenges; art competition involving school children at National Museum to promote art appreciation among youths; a gala night to honour and appreciate friends, mentors, benefactors and staff of the museum in Abuja.
Since Kenneth C Murray, the British founder of the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos Island started museum administration in Nigeria seven decades ago, the achievement of the agency till date "is the fact that we are still existing," Usman responded to a question about the issue of landmark achievement. "Many government institutions have come and gone. But the NCMM is still existing and building more museums across Nigeria." He boasted that "today, we have 48 national museums from one 70 years ago and from 12 national monuments to 167 currently."
Most crucial in any achievement of museum administration is preservation and conservation. Currently, the state of conservation laboratory of the national museum is a work in progress, Usman assured.
In 2009, Ford Foundation in partnership with NCMM unveiled a plan to assist in the rehabilitation of the conservation laboratory of the Onikan Museum. Giving an update on the laboratory, Usman said, "The partnership with Ford Foundation is still ongoing." He added that the "Federal Government on its own has given money for the construction of conservation lab in Ogbomoso, which is about 45 percent completion." When completed, the labs, Usman stated, will be available to service museums within Nigeria and others from countries in West Africa."
Given the spread of digital accessibility, the NCMM is also in compliance. The collections of the museums, he disclosed, are already going through the process of digitalization, noting, "We are digitalising our collection and documentation for easier research." He added that the agency is currently "constructing a digital archival" outlet in Enugu.
Some of NCMM-managed museums are in Abeokuta, Aba, Akure, Asaba, Benin, Calabar, Enugu, Esie, Ibadan, Igbo-Ukwu, Ile-Ife, Ilorin, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Lafia, Lagos, Lokoja, Maiduguri, Markudi, Minna, Nok, Osogbo, Oyo, Oron, Owerri, Owo, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Umuahia, Uyo, Yola and the Institute of Archaeology and Museum Studies in Jos. Among the monuments are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Sukur Cultural Landscape and Osun Osogbo Sacred Groove.
On its website, NCMM has as its vision “a stable museum system, which ensures the preservation and integration of the Nigerian cultural and natural heritage within the local and national developmental process and the world heritage network.” And the Mission Statement explains what it describes as ensuring “systematic collection, preservation, study and interpretation of the material evidence (tangible and intangible) of the development of the peoples of Nigeria and Nigerians in the Diaspora.”