Museum And Memory Culture

The Benin Museum and memory

Published on 20 May 2011

Author(s): The Nigerian Observer/Ambrose Ekhosuehi

Type:  Feature

"This was one way in which a people who did not have the skills of reading and writing could keep a record of their past”


International Museum Day Celebration is held annually on the eighteenth day of May, to reflect and to appreciate those involved in specialized occupation found in the Museum and to showcase the fundamental talents and Potentials of cultural heritage among world cultural heritage and that of a nation in particular.


Museums are places where all kinds of objects are stored and put on display. Museums preserve those objects what libraries do for hooks, and archives do for official documents.

The first known Museums were in Greece and Egypt during the third century B.C. The most famous was Museums of Alexandria in the palace of Ptolemy, rulers of Egypt.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries rich men began to collect Greek and Roman Objects and in the seventeenth century objects of interest to scientists were also collected; often displayed in private Museums.

The idea of opening Museums for everybody to use became common at about the nineteenth century. The memory of the past was the prime factor of the Great Benin collections.

“Every where through the central part of the Oba Palace was bronze and ivory. A whole industry of bronze workers and ivory carvers work for no-one else. This was one way in which a people who did not have the skills of reading and writing could keep a record of their past”.

“Heads to represent the Ancestors had been cast in bronze. On the walls, the heavy pillars that supported the galleries were the plagues on which the smiths of Benin recorded events and memory history of the kingdom”.

“On these plagues soldiers were leading captives home, Oba receiving ambassadors, noblemen taking part in processions. The Portuguese themselves would be depicted in their national dress, with their swords, their armours and their guns”.

In that time they built up the Oba Palace, perhaps the most marvelous collections of art and craftsmanship in Africa. These men, some of them geniuses, were part of the enormous number of people whose whole time was devoted to the service of the Oba”.


The Benin Museum was established in 1946 as the Local Authority of Benin history, culture and chief informant of visiting scholars. His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo — Emperor the Great, Oba Akenzua II CMG on the advise of Mr. KC. Murray — Director of Antiquities appointed Chief Jacob Uwadiae Egharevba of blessed memory the first curator and founder of the Benin Museum.

Museums are keepers of community history, values, innovation and provocative ideas. Museums can become important partners in campaigns for social change.

Museums bring important ideas, assets and resources to the table and can act as catalyst for community conversation. Museums help to form a better community, create social, effective and sustainable solutions to community history.

Museums are important community asset. Museums animate community values and memory and are important places of learning.

Aside from a strengthened community, there are additional benefits to community building for a museum. The first is tapping into a greater diversity of skills, knowledge and resources.

A Museum taps into a rich bank of ideas, talent and money resulting in expanded networks by reaching out especially to an organized collaboration.

Museums can build greater public credit and profile in the eye of politicians and citizens to answer not only if things are being done right but if the right things are being done and to bring artists, curators, archivists and every day citizens into a creative space and create something that will shape the future of the community.

Displays, seminars and cultural events are held to explore Aboriginal Culture, hence Museum is the repository for collection, exhibition and study of objects of artistic, scientific and historic interest.

The common characteristics of Museum are a history of community engagement that included the use of advisory boards and collaborative partnerships with other community and cultural organization, as society change, so should Museums.


Memory is the power of retaining and reproducing sensory impressions, keeping in mind time which past things can be remembered.

Memory is used to do actions already learnt and involved whenever past experiences influence actions which affect how well something is remembered.

Memories are stored in the brain. Important and interesting things are stored, and then transferred into permanent memory.

Museum and Memory are both data banks for storage, while museums are places where all kinds of objects are stored and put on display. Memories are stored in the brains; therefore, Museum and Memory are the sure way of preserving, protecting and promoting heritage resources in every art and culture of Human endeavour, and are custodians of the past, the present and the future trustees.

Making museum and memory relevant, is about deeper connections with the public, communities and the populace having experience museum in ways integral and supportive of lives and the future.

Momentary relevance can be realised with an individual programme in response to an event but to play a significant and memorable role in the community requires long term commitment of the entire museum trustees, staff and volunteers.

September 11 2001, challenged Museums to rethink their public role. Traditionally, Museums have focused on the display of objects; however, they are also concerned with interpreting them, creating historical narratives and offering spaces for public dialogue.

September, 11 exhibition provided for how Museums can respond meaningfully to memory’ both in their immediate aftermath and in the years to come.

September 11 was not the first to inspire a reaction from Museums, the surprises of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, which ushered the United States into World War 11; Museums boost public morale and prepared citizens for war time through educational programmes and exhibitions,

The New York Museum of Modern Art presented “Safety for the citizens”. Film programmes that educated visitors, civilian security during war time.

In their immediate aftermath, they are difficult to represent sensitively in later years, the complexities involved in navigating between history, politics and memory.

Historic sites, always sites of nourishment, education, reflection, refuge and site of civic conversation.

Museums can encourage critical memory, provide historical perspective and promote cross-cultural understanding and a memorial exhibition.

There is a National War Museum at Umuahia, Koko Living history Museum in Koko Delta State, Museum of National Unity and UNESCO World heritage Site in Nigeria as well as specialised collections of artifacts, bronze, ivory and carvings in Great Benin Kingdom, apart from high sculptured shrines, citadels and moats of great memory.

The framework functions best, when Museum staff members ask themselves a series of questions about the potential outcome and developing resources for Museum professional in a process of awareness, reflection, learning, knowledge sharing, capacity building and action related to their role in creating a culture of sustainability in Museum and Memory.

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