C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 1 - Jan. 1996
Lamu Fort Environment Museum
Lamu Fort is one of the most imposing historic structures in Kenya. It is exceeded in size only by Fort Jesus in Mombasa. The construction of its massive walls was commenced in 1813 shortly after the victory of the Lamu people over allied forces of Pate and Mombasa in battle at Sheila in 1812. The major building task was undertaken with the cooperation of Seyyid Said, the Sultan of Oman, who was then cultivating a promising alliance with Lamu.
Fearing retaliation from Pate and Mombasa, Bwana Zahid Ngumi the leader of the battle of Sheila sent a delegation to Muscat to seek the Sultan's protection and invited the participation of the Oman Arab in the building of the Lamu Fort. After its completion in 1 821 the Fort provided protection to Larnu people against invasions. For many years the Fort served a garrison housing Baluchi soldiers sent by Seyyid Said from Oman. During the early colonial period the Fort provided office accommodation for the colonial administration. From 1910 until 1984 it was used as a prison; then it was handed over to the National Museums of Kenya as a monument in May 1984. In 1986 the National Museums of Kenya undertook the restoration work which was completed in August 1990.
Lamu Fort is now being converted into a Social/Cultural Centre with facilities such as a public library, cafeteria, gift shop and offices and above all it houses a permanent exhibition on the environment including seafish aquaria. The big central courtyard serves as an open air theatre for festivals and local weddings. The museum will be a leading environmental education centre.
The permanent exhibition, 'Living Nature', in Lamu Fort will show different types of natural environments and habitats. From the open sea a visitor will be able to follow a logical sequence of events and phenomena through to the highland forests.
The journey starts from the open sea. The visitor sees the coral reef and heads towards the dry land through seagrass beds, mangrove swamps and the beach. Up a mangrove-fringed estuary, a visitor proceeds with the river journey. The river takes the visitor through swamps and finally to the lakes. The source of the river is the forested highlands.
In coursing down to the coast the river passes through grasslands and even semiarid areas or desert. In all these habitats there is plant and animal life. There is man too, carrying on with his age old occupations of crop growing, livestock production, forest clearing and the building of houses and other structures. All these have an impact on the environment and the Museum will have a section with this aspect. Then finally, there will be a section concerned with the question 'What is to be done?'. After man has adversely affected his environment the options open to man in rectifying the damage he has wrought are discussed. A room is provided at the end of the exhibition where more information is furnished and where people can discuss what they have experienced.
The Environment Museum contains several rooms, each room built up in a scenographic way, and providing experience of realistic environments.
It was officially opened by Hon. Francis Lotodo, Minister for Home Affairs and National Heritage in September 1994.
All Salim Baakabe
Curator, Kisumu Museum
National Museums of Kenya
P0 Box 1779 Kisumu