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Gov’t halts plan to establish regional museums

Minister Tom Butime addressing a press conference on improving the museum services in Uganda.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government has halted plans to establish regional museums to allow for the expansion and equipping of the existing museums. During the 2015/16 financial year, the government set aside over Shillings 20.8 billion to establish regional museums to promote cultural items from the different regions of Uganda.

However, speaking at the sideline of a media briefing at the Uganda Media Center, Samuel Kizaalwa, the Assistant Commissioner for Museums and Monuments revealed that the plan has been set aside to allow for the development of the National Museum at Kiira road in Kampala and the existing regional museums in Moroto, Soroti and Kabale districts.

He says in the old plan, the ministry had acquired land in Fort Portal and Arua but later developed a strategic plan for the development of tourism in Uganda, in which focus was put on developing existing museums before more museums are established.

A consultant was contracted at Shillings 500 million to study the existing museums and how they can be expanded to serve their purpose better. Speaking specifically about the National Museum, Kizaalwa explained that there is not enough space there hence forcing them to store some of the important items that could be displayed for public viewing.

Uganda shall join the rest of the world to mark the International Day for Museums on May 18th to raise awareness of the fact that museums are important places for cultural exchanges, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people. This year’s theme is, “The Power of Museums in Conservation of our Cultures”.

Museums world over are used to preserve and pass over knowledge about cultural and historical items including artefacts, attires, infrastructure and others of a particular country or community. Unfortunately, a number of Uganda’s artefacts are in foreign museums having been loaned during colonial times.

One of the most prominent artefacts is the Luzira head locally known as Mpanga Head, a terracotta head found in Luzira in 1929 during the construction of Luzira prison. The head made out of fired clay now lies in London having been loaned to the British Museum in 1931 by E.J Wayland, a geologist. Kizaalwa says that the government has held bilateral talks with some countries like the UK to return such artefacts and says that the next point of discussion shall be how to return the artifacts.

In 2018, the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in England committed to returning historic artefacts donated to them by the late British anthropologist and missionary Rev John Roscoe. Roscoe (1861–1932), who was a missionary from the Anglican Missionary Society in East Africa collected the different items. A team funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation would study and return the artefacts for further study in Uganda by end of 2022.

Speaking at the Uganda Media Center, Tom Butime, the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities said that the objective of the day is to raise awareness of the importance of museums as a means of cultural exchange, enrichment of culture and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people, focus on the new roles of museums as active actors and take museum services closer to the people.

Butime noted that to bring museum services closer to the community, the ministry shall conduct sensitization campaigns on services offered at the museum and engage different stakeholders including youths and community leaders in the preservation and promotion of cultural sites. He says that starting Thursday, May 12th to 18th 2022, there shall be temporary exhibitions at Uganda Museum where different stakeholders including artists, community museums and cultural museums shall showcase their works. The National Museum shall also have special displays from colonial times to date under the theme “The Journey taken by the Uganda Museum from 1908 to date”.

The Minister says that the week’s long celebrations shall include quiz competitions in Schools, Indigenous games, cultural dances, vintage drives from Parliament Museum, URA museum, Bank of Uganda all heading to the Uganda Museum and that each museum shall display some of its mobile artifacts.

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