A conversation with colleagues from the Nigerian National Commission for Museums & Monuments

This conversation will explore "What is Digital Now?" in museums from the perspective four panelists affiliated with National Commission for Museums & Monuments. Track:Middle East/Africa


Museum Computer Network 19:37
we'll admit her when she comes into the room, and then she can join the conversation. So, welcome everyone. This. This panel is was really the fruit of serendipity. I met Louisa Onawa who works with the National Commission for museums and monuments. But, and she requested to reach you in, in. In August she requested to join the LinkedIn, through the nCn LinkedIn group so we decided to, you know, connect with each other and I thought it would be a good thing if maybe she wanted to join us and speak at the conference and I'm glad that this conversation more fruits. And so today, I think we have to, at least, and possibly a third person who work on it, join us, and the, the way that we had envisioned to do that is to let Luis and Mary, introduce themselves. Tell us a little bit about their role in museums in Nigeria, and, and where do you live. So we serve, we don't share, go ahead. And by the way for the audience, just you know, broadband internet is, and, you know, it's not ubiquitous in Nigeria. And so, they are connecting through their cell phone right now. Yeah, and so when we did their little rehearsal of production where you're so we, we found that that being on video actually made the call, worse, so we decided for this previous call that it would be, you know, anonymous, with their names only. So, we know what, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself. Okay. Hello

Unknown Speaker 21:55
everybody, my name is Louisa. I work on with the National Commission for museums amendments to Nigeria. Presently I work as a museum education officer at the National Museum in Buckingham Palace, it's the History Museum. And we have that a reason we have, we have a gallery. And we have collection, though it's small, we have collection and my job entails corporate programs for school children coming up with programs educational museum educational programs and guided outreaches at all.

Museum Computer Network 22:46
And, and you are in Ohio Correct.

Unknown Speaker 22:51
Yes, I mean Oh yo. That's right, which is Asian town is an is an Asian town in in Nigeria. That's right. If you've ever had a little pass, that's

Museum Computer Network 23:06
great. And it's, I know what you told me you guys video was like three hours north of Legos or something like that, right.

Unknown Speaker 23:14
Yes, yes, yes, it's on. It's on the north of Legos, on your way to Nigeria.

Museum Computer Network 23:28
And I just want to add one more thing is Louisa is the official representative of iKON, in Nigeria for Nigeria. So at least she's in contact with this organization. Um, so, Mary. Yeah, why don't why don't you introduce, why don't you introduce yourself to us and let us know what's your, your, your role and the museum you work at.

Unknown Speaker 24:01
Okay, I am Mrs. Ahava Mary, Deputy Director of Educational Services in Legos Museum. I've been working with the museum over 25 years. Our work, there is mainly to enhance visitors ability to understand and participate in museums on their collections. We also for our help in promoting greater public awareness of the role of the museum in the community and the society at large. And we also promote the museum, as a center of public learning. So, individuals, we encourage the individuals to find their own level of intellectual, physical and emotional engagement with the museum's Heritage Resources, and also we have the idea to represent our museums, to present our museum to various communities around to know the heritage of the people. So this, the main work we do in Legos Museum, as well as going doing outreach programs to schools, inviting them for programs to create awareness.

Museum Computer Network 25:26
And just a quick question, The, the outreach school programs that you're doing at the museum vary. Are these based on Nigerian history or art, you know, art history and history of Nigeria, I'm just curious.

Unknown Speaker 25:48
Yeah, the Art Reach programs, visible on the historical aspects of Nigerian culture and heritage. We know the upcoming generation, most of them might not know what the cultural heritage is all about. And we have ces classic objects that represent the beanie bronze. We have the artwork, we have the EBO. We have the knock. So all these things are the with the pictures, taking to the rich to the schools to educate them on the heritage.

Unknown Speaker 26:32
Can you hear me,

Museum Computer Network 26:34
and catchy joined perfect segue high end catchy so I'm gonna let introduce yourself, very briefly say who you are and what's your role and condemn museums in Nigeria.

Unknown Speaker 26:55
Okay. My name is in kg Adage, I'm an assistant director in monuments heritage and sites, National Museum licos. We are actually in charge of the maintenance and management of them monuments, historical sites with them intangible. Intangible Heritage general heritage resources. So we protect, we conserve and then the monuments. What we do is go do physical conservation status of the monuments, you know, and then to find out what has happened to them in terms of deterioration and all that, and then try to fix them as much as possible not to, you know, destroy the facades of the monuments to keep them intact, because they're our heritage resources. So basically what we do is try to create awareness as well, that these monuments exist, and the history behind these monuments. So, we are in charge of managing the monuments, as a whole, and protecting them in maintaining that. That is basically what we do as monuments officers.

Museum Computer Network 28:22
Thank you, and catchy and so just for clarification for our audience. The National Commission for museums and monuments, Nigeria is the overarching federal and governmental agency if you will, in charge of all the cultural sites including monuments, cultural sites. And, of course, museums, right. Is that correct, yes. Right, so

Unknown Speaker 28:57
the monuments.

Museum Computer Network 28:58
That's right. But just, you know, for our audience, I think it's important to, you know, specify that all museums basically are under the aegis of this National Commission for museums and monuments, which is, which is a, you know, a state agency. So, when, and catchy Lisa, and Mary hat and myself had kind of a quick rehearsal, a couple of days ago, and try to talk about, you know, what is digital now. And it quickly occurred to me that, you know, there they are. You know, some, some things in Nigeria for example like it's 40% I think if broadband penetration is about 40% which means the rest of the population, basically access the internet through mobile, which is very common in most parts of the world. And that's it. And then, you know, Louisa told me that you have a couple of websites, but their function, there they are not. Yeah, exactly. and and then I heard that, actually, you are using Instagram and Whatsapp and Facebook, too, as a means of communication among people, but also with your stakeholders in your communities. And so rather than I thought having, you know, have you talked about what is digital. Now why don't we just meet you where you're at, and I would love to hear. And, you know, for our audience as well. What are the things that you do for example with Instagram and Facebook and others to try to keep in touch with those school kids or, you know, to, to attract them to the museum. Are you doing anything at all, in, in storytelling to get people to get to, to a particular site or museums. What tools do you currently use and for what

Unknown Speaker 31:22
you wants to

Unknown Speaker 31:25
know is that,

Unknown Speaker 31:29
in terms of them. Our national monuments. And we actually use this same social media in order to create awareness on the monuments we have in the country. Actually I am in Lagos state. So, I'm particularly and assigned, you know, to our monuments in Lagos state. So those are the ones we, you know, expose to the public to let them know that these monuments exist, and then they're the history behind them. So, these are these are the social media that we use, you know to disseminate this information, actually, when you haven't really gone digital like that so it's actually the social media the Facebook, the Instagram that we use to create awareness that these monuments exists. I mean the commission. And do you use anything digital.

Museum Computer Network 32:37
Do you use a D official Instagram account or do you use your own personal Instagram.

Unknown Speaker 32:47
There's an official Instagram account, there's an official Facebook account as well.

Museum Computer Network 32:52
And that's how you communicate for with with your stakeholders.

Unknown Speaker 32:59

Museum Computer Network 33:01
And how about school group visits in a, you know, still a COVID world, and how is that limiting access to, I mean it typically do score children in Nigeria go to museums and visit museums.

Unknown Speaker 33:17
Yes. If I may, if I may answer that school children actually do visit museums. Most of our visitors, school children count for like 70%, of, of, you know, visitors to your museum. Right, yes, audience, and, you know, pre pre COVID era, we didn't have a problem, we, we did everything in person, and physical, you know, we go to schools, they come to the museum, take them around the galleries, we teach them things and all, but during COVID. It became very, very difficult nobody was going anywhere, the world was shut down, and so that affected the museum, and even the museum stuff, you know quite a lot, and post COVID If I recall this period was COVID If really we I'm Piscotty. It's also the same thing. We feel we realized right now that we need to go digital, but digital technology is not easy for us to achieve, actually, and it's in the pipeline, we're trying to, you know, get online presence you know so that people can actually reach, reach, reach us in the confines of their homes in the confines of the comfort of their city rooms or their rooms wherever they are. So that's the point where we are right now, we realize that having an online presence that Altos, you know, will bring a lot of visibility, even during whatever pandemic is on. I mean we can always showcase what we have. Teach people and teach students, you know, what so, so that's where we really haven't gone digital. But we have in the pipeline, we're planning to do it, and this is because of positive phones and Amanda.

Museum Computer Network 35:25
My son so and websites are not, not even. You said there, they basically need to be redone entirely. But your question is probably like do you need a website to begin with. Is there is there a discussion among the museum, around the necessity of having a website or not.

Unknown Speaker 35:50
Yes there is we actually did have do have a website, but it's just a website, maybe a year after it was created after the first, you know, year, it hasn't been active so it's it's just there. So we know that we need a website, if we can start with the website first. And then do you know just get a little content. And then, we can always build on that, eventually,

Museum Computer Network 36:26
tell me about the content and the story telling, activities that you do. You know what tools do you use what's your process so that we can understand, you know, like, the ways that you get achieved that you get that achieved.

Unknown Speaker 36:49
Okay, well, the content is there both tangible and intangible. Yeah. For instance, if we'll have a group come in we have several different kinds of, you know various groups that are school children will have ethics, we have the local community. Different people wanted to come to see them. So, we attend to each group, depending on what's on their needs. For instance, school children, like American state school children need just to, first of all we need them. We need to teach them the classical art of Nigeria. And so we have replicas that we can use to teach them that we build stories around those replicas, and then we use that to talk to them. So, we also take them to an activity room where we tell stories, basically. And then for older groups, we will take them to conduct them around the gallery depending on their needs too because sometimes, you know, if we're online, would have a classroom where people will tell us what they want, as they come to the museum, so that we don't just dish out what we think they should do tell us exactly what they want to see. Right, and the service they want to hear. So, in these areas. We need digital technology to make the job more effective. It will help everybody involved, You know to disseminate duties. Effectively,

Museum Computer Network 38:28
what kind of what kind of, you know, digital tools are you thinking about here like, you know.

Unknown Speaker 38:36
Let think of laptops, they're thinking of hardware. We're thinking of, yes hardware, friends, because I know you need to do in the software. We will be. First, we need springs, We need. We need to come in as we need. Because we need

Museum Computer Network 39:07
your visual audio visual equipment. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 39:11
equipment, thank you. Yes, yes, that's, that's what we should start with.

Museum Computer Network 39:17
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. And, nonetheless, you're able to, like, you know, with the means that you have to engage the school kids who you said we're 70% of your audience, and in the National Commission for museums. Do you, I'm just curious do you do adults come to museums or is it a different experience. I don't see museum. Museum, free of charge. Is there a charge for institute some.

Unknown Speaker 39:58
It's actually a stipend, it's not calculated charge because we're not allowed, you know to charge we don't generate revenue. So it's, it's just a little thing is typing a small contribution. Yeah, amount of money that's right. It's not even up to $1. If we want to exchange right now is not to what we charge, so that we use to, you know, maintain clean the place, the galleries, and, you know, basically that's because what we spend in the museum. The museum is run basically on governments of that subvention right so we don't, we don't make more than, we're not on an IVR revenue generating place. No, yeah, yeah. So, so we don't charge, and at times we don't even charge anything at all. Right, yes for school children we allow them to come in. Yeah.

Museum Computer Network 41:05
Louisa, or Mary and he just had a question. The big, you know, the big digital system for infrastructure is obviously collections management systems and Digital Asset Management system. Do you have a collections management system. Do you use one

Unknown Speaker 41:33
collections management system, yes, we have, like I said we have because the other one we're talking I told you that, in, in the documentation departments. We all through the year, we keep we keep updating our collection objects, so they actually digitize, we have photographs of them, we have 3d photos. We have descriptions we have a session. You know so so we have, we have a management collection system. The only challenge is that this system is kept. The way we, the way we keep them is that is the challenge, how we keep them, you know, we don't have a backup, I don't know how to have a backup where we will store them in had disks and then you know flash drives on, and that is not adequate for such big collection writers, right on CNN, we have more than 1000 collection. Nigeria. So that's huge.

Museum Computer Network 42:57
So, and talking about conservation and monuments and other cultural sites, and, and catchy, you were alluding to earlier that, you know, your job is really to conserve the, the cultural heritage of Nigeria, and make sure that you know the, the, the assets are maintained in a proper way. How does this happen, and, and what, what, how do you go about it, and do you use any technology at all to do this kind of work and catchy. Catchy you hear my question. Louisa, did you hear my question.

Unknown Speaker 43:56
Yes, I did. Okay. I heard you. Okay. Okay. Yes, I can, i can say something about it. Sure. My area but I don't know when to cheese. I don't know, maybe she's having some technical problems, she's there.

Unknown Speaker 44:17
I'm here. Can you hear me now.

Museum Computer Network 44:19

Unknown Speaker 44:20
Oh. Oh yes, yes. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 44:23
so, um like I was in for conservation. We do like physical, you know, inspection, and then, you know like, now that we're talking about the digitization, we actually need some gadgets, like there's something called geographic information system, where we need, you know, to use them to plan to survey the monuments. You understand, because then we actually don't have the funds for a thorough conservation we just do the best we can. Because of the passage of funds, and you know like I said, you know, before it's capital intensive. So, we don't do literally two patches sometimes. And then at the end of the day these, you know monuments keep deteriorating, because we don't do, you know, big kind of maintenance on their maintenance Yeah, we don't so at the end of the day we find out that most of these things that happened to them, like, flooding. The attack by one guy I know that, you know, those things you know keep occurring recording on the monuments. And then because the opposite of phones, they deteriorate so fast, and even recently, you know, one of the moments was brought down because he had deteriorated so bad that, you know, the, the, the family, you know well connived somehow unplugged the momentum. But, you know, because we do not have funds to maintain them. At that time, to maintain this particular monument, you know, it became so badly deteriorated so bad that the because he was living monuments people were living inside the monuments, and you know they were complaining so we couldn't really do much because

Museum Computer Network 46:30
of lack of funds. Now of course,

Unknown Speaker 46:33
we actually need to do is not so much we need a lot of funds to you know to conserve and preserve this monument, but the problem is, yes, is funding, we don't have funds to do that. And that's what causes degeneration the rapid deterioration of these monuments. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 46:54
those. Okay, Eric MAN Yeah, Massa something. Yeah, of course, absolutely. Ben Eric Yeah. Okay. You were asking if right now, There's some digital if they're using any digital tools in their work. Right now, was that, that was a question asked

Museum Computer Network 47:12
Yeah, in conservation and

Unknown Speaker 47:14
chillax. Okay in conservation. So engaging in conservation is that any is there any digital,

Unknown Speaker 47:24
there is no digital equipment or anything for us right now but we need things like, like I said, geographic information system, you know, for the planning and survey and you know to to tell. Let us know the places we need, you know this conservation intervention. Yeah, you know, if we had those, you know, digital cameras and headsets for VR or know that we would, you know, be able to assess these things without even, you know, going to the sites. Right. And so we had those, it will be easier for us, you know, to you know to monitor the deterioration aspect of the monuments, where we have, we don't have any digital equipment to use as that we use for conservation right now.

Museum Computer Network 48:19
Right, right, right.

Unknown Speaker 48:20
No, no to.

Museum Computer Network 48:22
Let me ask you a question because it's, I can't believe that it's already 48 past the hour. So we have like literally about 10 minutes left. I had a question to the three of you. Does the National Commission for museums and monuments have a strategic plan for all of the museums in the control. You know institutions that make up in Nigeria, do you buy this and I'm asking, Is there is there a plan to where the, you know, the Commission for museums and monuments, wants to lift the sector and move their sector towards, you know, greater financial sustainability for example or, you know, whatever the goals of a strategy might be, as the of you as the commission does that ever.

Unknown Speaker 49:29
Yes, I'm want to say yes. When we joined the museum. Say About 20 years ago. The, the country. Well, you know, because the country is in recession. It's practically affecting every facet of life in Nigeria. And so then, there was a strategic plan, and it was being followed. At that time, you know, so, what comes to the museum what was marked out to come to the museum as informs plus for those centered projects do come to the museum. But these days, and because this is not just unique to the museum and known, it's a problem that cuts across sectors, across every area of life in Nigeria. So because of that, it's affecting the museum. So, if at the end of the day when they, when there's budgets, they, they may not, or the museum may not be able to access the budgets, because there's no font, there's no cash back it's, it's just there as a plan. And so when there's no cash package. It doesn't happen. So that's what the major problem is right now,

Museum Computer Network 50:49
obviously, obviously I mean I was gonna, you know, since you equipment, you know hardware equipment such as like computers and, you know desktops and audio visual equipment seems to be, you know, things that you would need. As a matter of priority. Obviously if there's no foul find in the budget, it's really difficult to you're part of things and it makes your job, even more difficult but I, At this point I was like, I, you know, this is really interesting for our audience and I don't know who is with us, but I just wanted to, I'm open to questions and since it's a meeting, it's a relatively small audience. Do you have any questions for Louisa, or Mary, or and catchy. I'm not calling on people, I promise.

Unknown Speaker 51:54
Can I say something, Eric, sure. Okay, in part of the challenges we're facing, you know, in terms of digital and technological developments include them upon network coverage. We have very poor network coverage, And then there's a problem with a power, electricity, even when you have these gadgets. You can hardly use them because of them, you know, lack of yes, a power. So the poor network coverage, kind of causes a stumbling block, even when you know you want to reach out to public. When you have this, you know hardware you have them, you know, but it's always a problem if you have the Wi Fi the Wi Fi there is a problem with network or reader know that so that's part of, you know the problems we have the challenges we have.

Museum Computer Network 52:55
Sure, sure. Yes, I have a question for you Is there a Museum Association that in Nigeria, that you know is kind of a, you know, is dedicated to supporting museum workers and museums. Yeah, yes

Unknown Speaker 53:16
we have what we call friends of the museum. Okay, that kind of supporters from time to time but it used to be very functional, but for now, is like, they are not so much available like the way before now. So, what we still go out and then we try to involve ourselves with, you know, private organization we do what is called the Public Private Partnership. You know with us, or the, you know, organizations, and then we solicit for maybe fonts, sometimes, to help us out sometimes because like I said why not generate a non profit making organization so we need to go out, you know to source for fonts, most of the budgets are located to the culture and tourism sector is really nothing to write home about. So that is why we have such associations, actually.

Museum Computer Network 54:29
Right, right. Yeah. Well, the hope, in, was it in your participation to MC n that you can, you know, now officially part of this community and you can tap into this global network of other museum professionals, and to see, you know, if you if you need help or have you know just to get your bearings around the basic, you know, digital pathways, basically, to grow but it's very, I realized it's very difficult to do this if you don't have funding and the support of your institution. And, you know, there's your you're dealing with. Yeah, significant pro blocks, but I do think I do think that, you know, tapping into the emceeing community as a resource for you in Nigeria, can be definitely a source of new conversation, and where, you know, a place where you can ask questions, and people will definitely answer, because that's what we do at MC N. Any questions for Chris we're almost done and I just wanted to see if there are any outstanding questions for Louisa, Mary, and Nick catchy. I did have another question actually very quickly, not that you might know but how do you compare how to do the Nigerian cultural, there's the Nigerian cultural sector and museums, compared to other African nations, it's a, you know, open ended question, I don't, I don't know if you know but I'm, I'm curious to see, you know if it's on par, or there are countries that invest in culture, more than, Nigeria, perhaps, or, you know, don't that are not in such a, you know, critical economic situation right now. Do you speak, do you speak to other African museums outside of Nigeria.

Unknown Speaker 56:57
Yes, yes we do speak with other African museums. In fact, at some point, you know, we used to have a Museum Association, African African association of African museums like Africa, come yes and we had a West Africa museums project, one, you know, that's for West African region. And so we used to do a lot of collaborations we used to do a lot of band back then, but both organizations as we speak are not African is existing but skeleton. One is completely non existent anymore, any longer, right. So, and then, it used to still be the same kind of problem challenges that we have. That's still the same kind of challenges, and our own cases is something else because Nigeria is large, most African countries are not as big as Nigeria, you know, aside from Nigeria. I think the only I'm not talking about a northern Africa now, but other African countries I think the only the only country in Africa that is, that may be free of the kind of challenges we have would be, South Africa, Kenya, and Carmela continually just about two or three of them, Africa, no not Zambia, not Zambia. Oh have forgotten what that, you know, so those are just, those are the countries that I think maybe may not be having such challenges. I was in South Africa last year much 2020 And I saw, we had a program in one of the museums, and it's also a government run Zoom Iziko Museum in South Africa and I, and I've seen what they do. You know, I mean it's totally different from what we have in Nigeria, completely different. Completely so it's almost the opposite. So,

Museum Computer Network 59:12
so there's hope, that there's nothing get better. So in the meantime, what I'm offering is, you know, this community for you to tap into, and I'm glad you were able to join the conference and discount today I'm not sure if it was really informative to our listeners. But I thought it was well worth putting on the program because, you know we we so rarely forget that the state of museums in other parts of the world needed a lot of support. And, and so that was the, you know, that was my intention, and to have a focus on Africa as well. So, Louisa, married, Nick, and do you have any questions for the audience, yourself, is there any question that you'd like to ask them. Okay, we have a Slack channel where you can do that but I will I will I will send that to you after the, after the session. Okay. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:29

Museum Computer Network 1:00:31
Okay, if there are no more questions in the interview then we're done. Thank you everyone for coming. Thank you. I think he married and we very much appreciate it. Thanks. Take care.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:46
Take care, bye bye.