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 6 - Feb. 2000
GCAM Column #3
In this column of GCAM we are featuring news about two programme descriptions from participants in the Nairobi workshop in order to illustrate how children's programmes have been developed. One describes children's programmes around a large general museum exhibition and the other, a separate programme for children only with emphasis on the programme itself.
The first come from the Anacostia Museum in Washington, DC, and its author, Robert Hall, joined the Nairobi workshop providing us with some different perspectives to share and exchange with African colleagues. The second article, in keeping with the theme of this issue, features a children's programme from the National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria on Museums, Peace, Democracy and Governance in the 21st Century described in the GCAM Nigeria report by Dorothy Elewachi Wamah, the National Co-ordinator in Nigeria.
We have also recently received another report from Charity Namukoko Salasini, Zambia National Co-ordinator on "Patching the Present with the Past for the Future", Traditional Artefacts of Zambia. The next GCAM Column will feature this programme and other news.
We have heard from a number of National Co-ordinators. We hope to hear from the rest of you within the next few months.
Continuing a Tradition of Community Service at the Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1967 as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture actively engages communities in Washington, DC, and beyond, in a variety of exhibition and program initiatives.
The latest exhibition touches on a subject that is familiar to many who visit the museum: the black religious experience. Speak to My Heart: Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life examines the expanding role of contemporary African American religious institutions in today's society. These successes and challenges are met by those who are Christians, Muslims, and Black Hebrews.
Community participation was a key factor in developing Speak to My Heart. In planning the exhibition, the museum's Unbroken Circle organization, which is comprised of local residents, provided special insights into Black religious institutions by first looking at their own experiences. Others assisted by identifying individuals and artifacts that tell special stories about spirituality, HIV/AIDS and literacy programs, church-run businesses, outreach ministries, and cultural identity. The phrase "a safe place to be," which was used by a youth during a planning meeting, ultimately became the title for one of the units. After seeing her mother's Bible on display, Grace Wilkes remarked, "I just couldn't comprehend the fact that I was part of such a wonderful sharing of faith by so many people."
The thoughts and sounds of the community are captured in the exhibition through videos. Interviews featuring a women minister, an artist, and church members, explain how today' religious bodies are adapting to meet the needs of an ever-changing society. Musical performers can be seen and heard as they offer a variety of spirituals and contemporary gospel songs.
Tours of Speak to My Heart and related educational programs are offered to a kindergarten through adult audience. Washington, DC, area residents, who serve as docents, conduct many of these discussions and as they focus on spiritual traditions and social services. A communion plate or dinner plate can easily spark a discussion. All visitors are encouraged to learn about the significance of houses of worship presented in the exhibition and share information about those in their own communities.
A special partnership with Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary School allows 4th- through 6th-grade students to discuss the role of the church in their community of southeast Washington. After visiting the exhibition, these students make visits to churches and masjids in the area, conduct research, write essays, and design images inspired by stained-glass art. They are also working towards their own school exhibition.
Speak to My Heart, which is on view through June 30, 2000, is truly a project that is inspired by, created with, and developed for the community. According to curator Gail Lowe, "the exhibition helps those involved to take stock of their work. They are appreciated and important to their community at large".
To learn more about Speak to My Heart, log onto the museum's website at www.si.edu.
- Robert L. Hall
Museums, Peace, Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria: Report from Group for Children in African Museums (GCAM - Nigeria)
Dorothy Elewachi Wamah write that GCAM - Nigeria held its inaugural schools programme, a symposium titled "Museums, Peace, Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria" on the 4th of March, 1999, at the National Museum, in Lagos. This programme was made possible through the sponsorship of Heritage Consultancy Bureau in Lagos. Financial and other material assistance was received from The National Gallery of Modern Art, the National Theatre, the Federal Government Press, the Ministry of Education, Lagos State and the National Commission for Museums & Monuments.
The essence of this symposium was to appreciate the children's knowledge of the global need for peace and democracy as the world moves to the next millennium. This was to be achieved through a debate. A Steering Committee was set up to implement the programme. Rules for the competition were drawn up by the Steering Committee and there was wide publicity through banners and the mass media. A team of judges was established to choose the winners.
Twenty schools both public and private spread over Lagos City were invited. There was a staggering response from these children who are all in senior secondary school (SSII), the targeted participants. Over one hundred students from 14 schools attended and four schools participated in the debate. They were, in order of finish, the Methodist Girls' High School, Aunty Ayo's Secondary School, Queen's College, and Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Surulere. Speakers selected to be lead speakers for the schools were Chinyue Nwosu, Amina Chankasi and Dupe Apetuje.
Invitations were extended to private sectors, government officials and the members of the diplomatic corps. Some of the Commonwealth Countries were contacted to send in flyers, posters and other brochures about their countries. These were displayed for the children to appreciate.
The Honourable Minister of Information and Culture was the Chief Guest of Honour and he had a goodwill message for the children. The President of the Commonwealth Association of Museums, Mr. E.N. Arinze, was on hand to give the keynote address which was very informative, inspiring and very educational. There is no doubt that the children were highly motivated by his words.
The three best students were selected at the end of the symposium and prizes were awarded to them. Certificates were also awarded to all the schools that participated. Free membership of GCAM was extended to all the interested students through the instruction of CAM's President and sixty-one signed up.
The students saw many roles for museums as "important to nation-building", asserting that " the vital role of the museum is the cultural education of the youth...as the induction of people into the cultures of their fore-fathers". They also saw the museum as "promoting mutual understanding and respect among the nations that make up Nigeria". "One feels a sense of belonging in knowing what our ancestors did, how they lived, their achievements and downfalls".
In summary they saw the museum as an educational institution which can help to bring alive the past and illustrate the folly of war and the strengths of democracy and peace. It is perhaps encapsulated by a more extensive quote from one paper by Dupe Apetuje, Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Surulere, Lagos
"Museums tend to help us relive the past, and in the intricate dialectics of human existence, looking backwards is looking forward. It is therefore, important in the act of nation building to be fully aware of the past, being cognisant of the causes of successes and failures of former times. This knowledge helps to structure the present more perfectly and lay a solid foundation for a credible future.
It becomes even more important to the development of peace and good governance in any country when the antiquities of art, politics and science of its past are re-examined to make the present more meaningful and the future a desire."