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 3 - Oct. 1997
The West African Museums Programme:
Vision, Achievement and Challenge
Following a meeting last June in Rome on the topic of the Museum Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, the West African Museums Programme became a sister organization of CAM. This was achieved through the mutual signing of an agreement in principle to collaborate as each organization found practical and to keep each other informed of activities and events. This article is written to acquaint you with WAMP, a remarkable museum organization.
During a period of several weeks in November and December 1996, the writer was engaged to conduct a programme evaluation of the West African Museums Programme (WAMP). This assignment was undertaken in conjunction with an organizational study by a management consultant. Besides visiting the office in Dakar and the International African Institute in London to examine records and interview individuals involved with WAMP, the opportunity was provided to visit projects funded by WAMP in Dakar and Bamako, Mali. The experience afforded an opportunity to really get to know the organization and describe it to you.
The West African Museums Programme has been outstanding in its vision, its achievements and its economy of operation. It has been in existence for 14 years. Begun as a project of the International African Institute in London, it has evolved into its current status as an international, independent NGO based in Dakar, Senegal. Its aims are to promote the development of public and private museums in the fifteen countries of West Africa, to promote good museum practice and help strengthen professional networks within the region and internationally, and to make museums more responsive to the needs and problems of their societies.
These directions have truly guided the work of WAMP and it has carried out a number of successful programmes. Notable are the workshop series: Museums, Research and Communication, with such seminars as "Museums and History" and "Museums and Urban Culture." These events are directed at relating museums to research and the academic community and helping museums act as bridges between academic research and public interest and understanding. Various national programmes have been successfully completed and a small grants programme (through SIDA) for museums to obtain funding for small projects has led to some exciting results, such as substantially increased revenue generation for the Musée historique de Gorée, from seed money to print guide books, posters and postcards.
WAMP has collaborated extensively with ICCROM-PREMA, with ICOM on What Museums for Africa? and The Directory of African Museum Professionals and produced a number of publications from its programmes as well as the WAMP Bulletin. Its current major project focuses on inventory and technical training relating to public and private Photo Archives in West Africa.
Its achievements are many and impressive for a programme which until recently had a one person office. It assisted significantly in the development of the National Museum of Mali, the establishment of the first museum in Cape Verde, has been an undoubted catalyst for museum development in West Africa and strengthened the museum professional network substantially in addition to many other contributions. It has focused constantly on the need for museums to be relevant to their communities and has achieved progress in this objective.
At the same time, the ongoing struggle for funding remains the major challenge and the overwhelming needs of museums and museum development in West Africa require a unified and strong sense of priorities. The transition from project to independent NGO brings with it the necessity to establish the complete range of systems and skills within the organization without losing the strong vision and emphasis on programme which have allowed WAMP to be such a remarkable organization.