Museums are vital institutions for keeping the memories and lessons of nations and peoples alive for the instruction of generations of humanity, Ms Moji Okuribido, Regional Advisor for Culture, UNESCO, has said.
She said “Museums should attempt to inoculate societies against their basest inclinations such as tribalism, racial intolerance, religious bigotry, terrorism or any kind of undesirable fanatical behaviour”.
Ms Okuribido made these remarks at a lecture on the theme: “Museums and Memory” as part of the International Museums Day celebration in Ho on Wednesday.
“Museums can no longer stand aloof from the major issues of our times,” she said.
Ms Okuribido said museum collections, tangible and intangible, should be attentive to social and cultural change and help promote the identities and diversities of society in an ever-changing world.
She said museums helped in changing “the memory of our past into hope for our future” by promoting conflict resolution and intercultural dialogue.
“Instances such as Robben Island demonstrate that what distinguishes us can also become what unites us, and that a community of very different cultures and civilizations can strengthen the sense of our common humanity”, she explained.
She said memories of climate change and disasters in museums could prove instructive in managing the phenomena as they would be kept “fresh in the minds of communities over a period of decades or generations.”
“We have the disaster, we have the inquiry, we find out the same painful lesson…And then in the course of a generation or generation-and-half, the disaster recurs…and again we forget” Ms Okuribido quoted an Australian historian specialized in the aftermath of natural disasters in reference to his own country.
“The problem, it appears, is that despite enquiries, reports and recommendations, they lack a permanently visible presence. There is nothing to keep the experiences and lessons learned fresh in the minds of communities over a period of decades or generation”, she said.
Ms Okuribido examined the centrality of museums and memory in education and training, governance, intercultural learning and healing and African renaissance.
“How true to our past is the tapestry of stories we have spread out in our museums for the present and future generations of Africans to read?” She asked.