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Getty East Africa
In order for museums in East Africa to fulfil their civic responsibility to preserve cultural heritage and to engage audiences, staff need to feel confident in their professional skills, secure in their employment and motivated to achieve excellence.
In June 2011 the British Museum’s Africa Programme received a major grant from the Getty Foundation to develop and deliver a training programme in East Africa. A series of workshops in core museum skills is currently running for key staff in the national museums of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda over a three-year period.
The main objective of this programme is to create a network of dedicated museum professionals in both national and regional museums with the requisite skills to preserve, maintain and present their collections for future generations. The training is delivered from regional museum training hubs in Mombasa and Kisumu in Kenya by a joint team of British Museum staff and East African colleagues.
It is hoped that the programme will help build capacity in the region’s museums and encourage long-term commitment to the heritage profession.
- Margaret Trowell School of Art, Makerere University, Uganda
- National Museums of Kenya
- National Museums of Tanzania
- National Museum of Uganda
- Zanzibar Museums
Map of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania showing the locations of key partner organisations
Collections care workshops: preventive conservation
In spring 2012 colleagues from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda came together for the first collection care workshops held consecutively in each of the regional museum training hubs in Kisumu and Mombasa. With an emphasis on ‘learning by doing’ the workshops provided a dynamic environment for colleagues to share skills and gain new knowledge.
The workshops introduced methods of reducing risks to museum collections using low technology, regionally specific techniques and locally sourced materials.
Participants also tested the innovative technique of solar bagging to manage pest infestations in museum collections. As a direct result of these experiments the use of harmful pesticides has been significantly reduced in many regional museums.
Since the workshop colleagues have made a very positive impact on the way collections are stored and cared for. By sharing their knowledge with others they are helping to develop a strong regional network of skilled museum professionals.
Collections care workshops: documentation
The second collections care workshops in May 2012 focused on key aspects of museum documentation. Colleagues from across the region were introduced to the principles of accessioning, cataloguing, measuring, numbering and locating objects.
Practical activity sessions enabled them to test their understanding through application. Trainers were on hand throughout to answer specific questions or to resolve individual challenges.
Creative activities were developed to help colleagues understand how objects are made and decorated. By learning techniques such as weaving, embroidery, pottery-making, embossing and printing they were able to describe both materials and processes more accurately thereby enhancing their collection documentation.
Education workshops: object-based learning
The first stages of training for museum educators participating in the GEAP took place in September 2012. The workshops at the two training hubs: Fort Jesus Museum, Mombasa and Kisumu Museum in Kenya were attended by 32 professionals from across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The courses provided an introduction to object-based learning in museums.
From role-play to object handling and memory games, participants explored a range of engaging interactive techniques with which to enliven and increase learning during museum sessions with a focus on school groups.
The initial impact of the training has been very positive. Participants have shared their GEAP experiences with colleagues and applied their knowledge in developing new education programmes. Art clubs, storytelling and outreach sessions are all now being used to explore collections of archaeology, traditional culture and natural history.
Exhibitions workshops: design and installation
In May 2013 the first exhibition workshop was held at Kisumu Museum focusing on interpretation, exhibition design and display techniques.
Four showcases in Kisumu’s main exhibition gallery were identified for a refurbishment during the workshop. These cases focused on the following themes: livelihood; food preparation; clothing and adornment; and headdresses. The cases were emptied of objects, cleaned, repainted and fitted with new glass fronts.
Participants explored new stories for each theme and selected objects in good condition that best illustrated these stories. Ideas and designs for the new displays were presented to the Principle Curator, Wycliffe Oloo who gave positive feedback and direction to the group.
Participants from the earlier collections care workshops trained their colleagues to clean the objects. The entire group then learnt new methods to mount and display objects safely using locally sourced materials.
The hard work and commitment of the workshop group as well as the generous support of the Principle Curator and input from other staff at the museum contributed to this new display.
Kisumu Museum is the first regional museum in Kenya to trial the use of QR codes to access more information via smart phones and to explore how they might be used to support the interpretation of collections.
Mohammed Hassan Ali (Lamu Museum) showing Juma Ondeng (National Museum Kenya) around Takwa Ruins, Manda Island, Kenya August 2011
The Getty East Africa Programme
In November 2009, the Getty Foundation awarded the British Museum a grant to undertake a scoping study to provide a detailed survey and evaluation of current training provision in the region.
The Africa Programme team visited more than 40 east African museums and associated heritage organisations. Key areas identified for future training included permanent exhibitions and temporary displays; the care of collections and preventive conservation, and visitor engagement and public programming.
The Uganda workshop team at the National Museum of Uganda, April 2011
Building community partnerships in Kampala
As part of the East Africa scoping study a pilot workshop entitled Museum Connections: Visitor Engagement and Reaching Out took place at the Uganda National Museum in Kampala at the end of April 2011.
The workshop was attended by staff from institutions included in the scoping survey who had expressed an interest in participating in the project: the Uganda National Museum, the Bank of Uganda Museum and Makerere University. The team comprised Africa Programme and British Museum staff and a colleague from the National Museums of Kenya.
The workshop tested potential training techniques and workshop structures as well as offering practical support to colleagues in developing links with local communities. Participants explored methods of engaging people with objects, identifying stakeholders, creating networks and developing effective publicity materials.