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Uganda: Save The Uganda Museum

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda, Arts & Culture, Citizen Media, History, Politics

The Uganda Museum [1] is a museum in Kampala, Uganda, which displays and exhibits ethnological, natural-historical and traditional life collections of Uganda's cultural heritage. The museum was founded in 1908.

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry recently sanctioned the construction of a 60-storey building for the ministry offices [2] on the site that currently houses the museum. Other sources [3]indicate that the demolition will pave way for the construction of East African Trade Centre.

Save The Uganda Museum [4]Lawmakers from the East African Legislative Assembly have rejected the planned demolition [5] of Uganda Museum arguing that that the move is “destructive and unreasonable”.

On 15 December 2010, the Kampala City Council (KCC) locked the main gate and all offices of the Uganda Museum [6] over failure to pay property rates.

A group of Ugandan cyberactivists have decided to run a Facebook campaign to save the museum: Save The Uganda Museum Campaign [7]. The mission of the campaign [8] is to “Stop the oldest Museum in Eastern Africa from being demolished!”:

Established in 1908, The Uganda Museum is an irreplaceable cultural & historical structure.

It is going to be demolished and replaced with a 60 story building.

We want to express our concern and encourage the developers to find an alternative site for their building.

Here [9]are some of interesting messages left on Save The Uganda Museum page [10]:

Prince Edward Budadira says [11], “Stop this madness”:

In a country without little to inherit at national level,the museum is one of the little there is for our children to inherit.A symbol that binds us together as children of mama Uganda ,a defination of who are and what we hope to be as defined by what we were.Destroying it is destroying us as a people and what we are and a violation of our childrens’ right to their heritage.So please STOP THIS MADNESS.

Cry the beloved country [12]:

I think something is very wrong with our leaders; first a school is evicted and the prime land on which it sat is left to fallow for half a decade& counting… now in the same spirit of ‘investment’ these same leaders are looking to sell our cultural heritage to the highest bidder… surely cry the beloved country…

Rich Wagaba is appalled [13]:

Just been to the museum and it would be scandalous to scrap what bits of our heritage we still have left! Not just the first car but a lot of our history… Why do I even have to explain this… ITS OUR NATIONAL MUSEUM!!! How is demolishing it even up for discussion?!.. Color me So Appalled.

Bloggers are also campaigning to save Uganda's heritage. Jean Ankunda writes [14]:

The museum is one of those very important national institutions that have for long been neglected. The structure that houses the museum was designed by a German architect Ernst May more than 60 years ago and it is itself a tourist attraction.

Apart from being a national historical monument, the museum houses a collection of historical artefacts. It is also a source of information about more than 650 cultural heritage sites dotted across the country. This means that the national museum is a centre of learning about Ugandan life, culture and heritage.

Geofrey Smith posts an email [15] written by Uganda's Historic Resources Conservation Initiatives (HRCI):

Please take the time to read this and respond. Heritage takes precedent! Please forward to anybody working in the area or anyone who can help.

Dear all,

The Uganda Museum, the oldest in East Africa, is threatened with destruction on March 15th 2011 if we do not take action now! A group of developers are seeking to destroy the Museum to make way for a tall trade tower. Their proposal to provide two floors in the new office block is a complete travesty as it makes no provision for the loss of space, the environmental needs of the collection and accelerated disintegration of the whole collection.

Share your ideas
about how to maximize the impact of the campaign:

If we lose the Uganda Museum we lose not just a world renowned building and collection – but a very important part of World Heritage built up over the last 100 years and which we will never see again. The collection does need restoration and renovation but not destruction! Join our campaign to save Uganda Museum. Spread this email throughout your contacts and any influential media, advocacy, arts and heritage bodies. Any ideas about how we can maximise the impact of this campaign will be gratefully accepted.

Please send responses to:
1. Mr. Muyambi Ellady, Executive Director (HRCI),Email:elladmuyambi@yahoo.com
2. Mr. Tumwesigye Robert Baganda,Director (HRCI),Email:tumwesigyes@yahoo.com

Vali Jamal posts a petition [16] published on the Africa-Orientalia weblist. The petition was written by the former curator of the Uganda Museum, Merrick Posnansky:

A group of developers are now seeking to destroy the museum,
established in 1908, and thus the oldest in Eastern Africa, to make
way for a tall trade tower. Though two floors of the building will be
made available for the museum, there will be inadequate room for the
collections, for temporary exhibitions and expansion. Below is a
letter that I've sent to the President of Uganda. The museum staff
are frightened as they believe that rich businessmen are conspiring
with government officials to steal the land. No thought whatsoever has been given to the effects of the removal of the collections into
storage and then into the new facilities. No one knows when the new building will be finished.

Join the campaign [16] by writing a letter to the Ugandan embassy in your country:

Please write a letter, with a copy to the Uganda Embassy in your country, expressing your concern about this development. There has been virtually no discussion in Uganda since people are frightened of Government and if nothing happens the bulldozers will move in on March 15th. If you can use your good name to write to such bodies as UNESCO, ICOM or your own museum etc., to add their voices, it would certainly

The object is not necessarily to block progress but to put a new trade tower elsewhere.

Yours sincerely,
Merrick Posnansky Professor Emeritus, History and Anthropology, UCLA

Finally, Jean Ankunda notes that [14] advanced societies preserve museums because of their unique functions:

The idea of demolishing this historical monument must be scrapped and instead, plans should be made to upgrade the museum to capture and reflect the country’s cultural and socio-economic transformation over the years.

All advanced societies have preserved such centres because of their unique and vital functions, including collecting scientific, educational and research works to enhance a sense of national identity.