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Last Update August 4, 2022

Museums (Owa-ama or Ugha ama are instructions (publicly or privately owned) which collects. Preserved and display objects (both natural and cultural) with the basic aim of entertaining, educating and providing materials for research and aspects of man’s heritage and development — Momin (190).

Museums are comparable to schools, Universities, libraries and other agencies of knowledge in term of enlightenment. Museums preserve the tangible evidence of man’s history creativity and the physical aspects of the world he inhabits. They also give information about the past environment of the materials displayed.

Museums give people opportunities to rediscovers themselves and to identify their places in the past and the role they can play in the contemporary world.

Museum materials in Nigeria date to the early stone age period which dates back long before 100,000 years ago, and by about 11 ,000 years ago late stone age hunters and gatherers were said to have been dwelling in the forests such as the lwo Eleru area where some finds including microlithic tools, pottery, and skeletal remains had been discovered. People making pottery were already present in parts, of Nigeria (e.g. the Jos Plateau) at about 5th millennium BC (Shaw 1978).

From the 5th century BC technological and cultural entities like the NOK, mainly terracotta figurines and sculptures with sites like Taruga contain evidence of iron working. Terracotta objects were also recovered from Ife and lgbo-Ukwu.

Nigeria’s cultural heritage that had been discovered and sdme depositcd in Muscurns include features like stones, and pottery artifacts and bronzes from Doima in Northern Nigeria, rock paintings and rock gong of Birnin Kudu, the lgho-Ukwu (9th century AD Ife and Benin (12th to 15th century AD,  bronzes. the various act in woodwork and calabash found in many parts of Nigeria. woven mats. cloths, musical instilments, masquerades (ekpo) found in Edo and different parts of Nigeria. defensive walls such as the Benin moats the palace of the Obas, Emir and many natural and traditional rulers in Nigeria with their hereditary ceremonial objects Royal patronage of works of arts such as the brass work in Benin are all among those objects looted by Europeans. Some of these objects are found in various museums and wealthy men’s houses all over Europe.

The history of museums in Nigeria could he very interesting and could be said to date to pre-Arab and European times. But museums started in Europe around third century B.C. It started with what Eyo (l988) calls the ‘Muses period i e. era of Encyclopedia learning before development later to a specialized institution.

In Nigeria, various cultural materials of rituals, religious and political were fashioned and preserved in temples or traditional shrines and in the palaces of kings and Chiefs. Apart from the housing of such cultural and historical materials like the ivory, bronze and carved wooden objects that are numerous, these institutions (temples and shrines and palaces) were preserved as monuments in their own right. Some natural features like caves (for example Ogbonike cave in Anambra State) were also maintained as monuments.

Persons responsible for organizing ant! preserving the cultural and historical materials included the head of each family household, priests of various shrines like the Okhuaihe shrines, the Ovia shrines, the Osun shrines and any kings (like the Oba of Benin) or chiefs officers.

In Benin from the Ogiso era for instance a head of the house hold was in charge of his family’s temple (aro-erha). In such temples, cultural and historical material likes iron, stones, bronze, wooden head (Uhunmwilao) amulets, wooden statues, (Ukhurhe) (lkenga in Ibo) or images of deities were kept in the shrines. Objects like iron gongs (Egogo) ivory trumpets (Oko or Orhu) drums (Ema) as well as stones (Okuta) or clay imagees kept in the shrines. These head or priests acted more or less as curators, taking care of these cultural and historical objects. Wooden and iron or bronze staffs, statues and thrones, ceremonial) regalia of be past king kept in the royal palaces were taken care of by any of the kings officers.

In Benin the Iwobo society took care of all the paraphernalia or the regalia of the Oba of Benin.

In these pre-colonial museums, objects were preserved because of their utilitarian or symbolic value. For example the (Ada and Eben) scepters found in the Oba’s palace in Benin were useful in displaying the political structure and ritual significance of the kingship system. The ada and eben scepters were made by Ogiso Ere in about (16 A.D. 66 A.D).

The wooden staffs (Ukhurhe) kept in the ancestral shrine in Benin can give the number of chiefs that had ruled, More than this; administration of oaths could be taken on them.

It was through there type of pre-colonial museum in the palace of the Oba of Benin that the numerous objects that formed a watershed created marked the end of a historical epoch and when these objects were stolen in 1897 disaster occurred in the history of Nigeria. The Benin Empire fell and this made her artifacts went beyond the shores of Nigeria. The fall of the great Empire again today has given a new dimension to re-write the history and know more about the Benin Empire and civilization for many centuries.

Ever since the colonial took over the system of modern museums in the country, its scope and objectives as earlier said, have continued to increase as more and more people come in contact with it. It has ceased to be regarded as the convenient repository for antiquated items it once was thought to be, it increasingly being seen as a powerful cultural centre for the community, a powerful institution which has much to the development of any nation. Museums objectives could now be summarized as:-

1. To collect, protect and preserve national patrimony.

2. To collect and displays objects both natural and cultural

3. To educate the masses on their patrimonial heritage. History and culture of the people.

4. To provide entertainment and relaxation for those who visit it

5. To provide materials for research on aspects of man’s heritage and development.

6. To project the national image on the international scene For example the Benin objects found in the museums of the world have projected Nigerian’s image abroad,

This sixth objective is political and it is aimed at its values against a more powerful hegemony. As Ekpo Eyo (1988) puts it, “African nationalists looked upon it as the mirror of their new status, a cultural institution which was required to buttress political independence”

It means that all the artifacts collected by the colonial masters were converted into National Museum with the important objective of awakening national consciousness.

Museums began during the colonial period. In 1927, Kenneth Murray, an art teacher in the British Colonial Service, was appointed to advise the government “on the effects of the colonial education system on local art” (Nzweunwa 1984, Momin and I Okpoko 1990) while performing the assignment K.C. Murray made personal collection of several Nigerian art forms he later advised the government on the establishment of museums and the proclamation of relevant laws to prevent the ¡Illegal exportation of the Nigerian art works. Murray continued to purchase antiquities.

In July 1943 Nigerian antiqueness services was established by K.C. Murry and Duck were in change. In 1946 Mr.J.H. Braunholtz came to Lagos for the preservation of Nigerian antiquities. In 1947 Mr. B.E.E. Fagg a trained archaeologist was appointed by the British Government. Fagg establishes the Jos Museum in 1952.

Today, there are more than 29 Federal Museums in Nigeria
Apart from these National museums there are very many private owned museums in the country. Museums in Nigeria are now making replicas to represent the arts stolen or sold out of Nigeria.

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Benin kingdom copy right