To the extent that museums enhance memory, its place in propelling the creativity that shall bring about the desired social change cannot be discountenanced.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) defines museum as ‘a non-profit making permanent institution in the service of society and its development and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment (ICOM Statues – Code of Ethics 2002). Conversely, an elementary Dictionary definition of museum sees it as a building in which objects of artistic, historical or scientific interest are kept and shown to the public.
The insight one can unambiguously deduct from the two definitions of museum is that whichever way we want to see museum, either as a building or an institution or both, it is a depository or repository of ideas or knowledge in all spheres of human existence, in the service and development of society. For museum to engender the desired social change, it has to be symbiotically, synergised with memory, plus creativity that produce social change.
We shall now demonstrate using five spheres of human endeavor, namely: Education, industry and technology, agriculture, security and sports, how museums can engender the desired social change.
All of us who are students, whether formal or informal, (and I dare say all human beings or homo sapiens are students), we all know that before you can educate anyone in anything, you must have learned that thing from someone else, that is to say, today’s students shall be tomorrow’s teacher’s and tomorrow’s students will be subsequent or succeeding generation teachers.
In this respect, none of us can dispute this profound assertion from the Good
Book: ‘That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requirieth that which is past’ (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Education, however one sees it, is embedded in memory and there is no creativity outside of memory, and without creativity, social change, especially the desirable one, is not possible. So, for instance, if we complain that the standard of education is lower now, than before, it is only these that know, or have the memory of higher quality of education, that shall be in a better position to creatively engineer the social change in our education system to bring about the desired higher quality of education. To the extent that museums enhance memory, its place in propelling the creativity that shall bring about the desired social change cannot be discountenanced.
Industry and technology
All the technological and industrial advancement that man has recorded from creation till date is a product of man’s memory: from the challenges of the hunting and gathering society or primitive communal society as our Marist friends would advocate, to our information technology age or society. That is to say, it is the memory of the difficulty of the hunting and gathering society which led man to creatively invent simple implements such as iron, knife, hoe, etc, to confront such difficulties to his existence on planet earth, which succeeding generations have continued to build on; by creatively inventing whatever machinery and implements, not just to overcome such difficulties, whose memory shall inevitably lead succeeding generations to creatively try to invent whatever implement or develop the technology that shall address such difficulties.
Putting it succinctly, every advancement in industry and technology of man, has been a product of memory of his (man’s) struggles for better life from creation till date. So we see the place of memory and creativity in our advancement in Industry and Technology and if we acknowledge the role of Museum in preserving memory, we cannot but appreciate the importance of Museums in ensuring the desired Social Change.
Agriculture is one sphere of human endeavor where the memory of man’s struggle against famine, hunger and malnutrition from succeeding generations has propelled him to creatively develop the means to meet his need of food. Unfortunately, because most people have no memory of hunger, famine and or malnutrition, the ability to creatively develop the method of distributing what has been produced, the society and humankind is not paying the desired attention to creatively deal with the issue of hunger and malnutrition so that no one on planet earth should go to bed without knowing where or when the next meal shall come. The issue here is that one can reasonably argue that mankind, is producing or has the capacity and capability to produce enough food.
The primary duty of every legitimate and lawful government is the protection of the lives and properties of its citizens and people; because security is the pivot on which every human endeavour depends for social harmony and progress. Security is one sphere of human endeavor whose development hinges on our memory of insecurity and the need to evolve the needed security to combat the identified insecurity. Most social scientists have been able to argue, successfully (at so least so far) that the failure of the League of Nations System, after the World War 1 led to the fallout leading to the World War 11, while the success of the United Nations System has been able to prevent a Third World War; so far. The problem of insecurity in our country be it nationalist or tribal, sectarian, struggle for economic opportunity occasioned by dwindling resources as a result of climate change (farmers and headers clashes) or even terrorism, can, in addition to other security measures that the government and security agencies adapt in overcoming them, be forestalled, if again, pictorial and audio-visual museum, on the devastating effect which such insecurity have visited on known committees in our country, where such insecurity is about to erupt.
Sports is another human endeavour, where memory engineers the creativity that brings about social change. Therefore, since museum enhances the creativity that brings about social change, the better appreciation of the role of museum in enhancing memory can never be over-emphasised in human endeavour and this appreciation should be demonstrated by both citizens and governments at every level in our country doing all within their reach or power to develop and adequately equip our museums to be able to have the expected impact in our society.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Holocaust Museum in Poland during his recent visit to Poland for the last climate change conference is an indication that the government of the day appreciates the museum’s ability to enhance memory, which propels creativity that engenders the desired social change. All Nigerians should build a national consensus in appreciating our museums, by making ourselves critical stakeholders of them to enable them continue to engender the desired social change.
Eyiuche Onyema is of the National Museum, Asaba; Phone: 08184100632