The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB), the institution mandated to acquire, protect and conserve collections in museums, has begun refurbishing all the nine recognised public museums dotted around the country.
The works include structural refurbishments, improvements in the outlook of the galleries and the expansion of the collections in some of the museums, including the acquisition of seven vintage cars used by former Presidents of the country.
The nine museums are the National Museum located along the Barnes Road and the Museum of Science and Technology (MST), both at Adabraka, as well as the Ussher Fort (Fort Crèvecœur) Museum of Slavery at James Town, all in Accra.
The rest are the Upper East Regional Museum in Bolgatanga, the Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Saint George’s Castle museums in the Central Region, the San Antonio and Fort
The wildlife section had skeletons and images of various amphibious species, herbivores and carnivores.
It is difficult for visitors to the gallery to miss the intriguing upper jaw bone of a whale that hung from the ceiling.
At the transportation section, items on display included the first tyre produced in the country by the defunct Firestone Company Limited, and the first local bicycle produced in 1978, known as “champion".
A 10-year-old boy and pupil of the AME Zion School at Mamprobi, Wisdom Toxia, built the wooden bicycle.
Since then, Toxia has developed a successful career in bicycle manufacturing and now exports high-end racing bamboo bicycles.
The chassis of a Rover vehicle designed by Maurice Wilks in 1947 and built by the United Africa Company in 1968 can also be found at the gallery.
The gallery is also host to a silvery propeller engine and a model of the Bia River Ship.
Just upon entering the premises of the MST, the visitor is greeted by an old traction engine, a donation from the Akwatia Diamond Mine.
It is one of the first machines used to cart timber from the hinterland to the coast.
A traction engine is a steam-powered tractor used to move heavy loads on roads, plough the ground or to provide power for a locality.
The Head of MST, Akosua Saah Buckman, told the Daily Graphic that there was the need to build on the future, based on the past.
Ussher Fort Museum
The Ussher Fort (Fort Crèvecœur) is one of the oldest forts in Ghana and West Africa, built in the year 1649 by the Dutch. However, its museum was established in 2007 and renovated and reopened last year.
The museum opens from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
The team observed that the museum looks well maintained with floor tiles fixed while the interior and exterior have been painted in white.
In the gallery are vestiges of slavery, including neck and hand shackles and a map of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade route.
Also showcased are various artefacts such as tusks and sugar cane.
The gallery also displays drawings and other artist impressions that tell the story of how the slave trade started and ended. The significance of the Bond of 1844 and the Freedom Proclamation Document issued by Governor-General Peter Von Scholten on July 3, 1848 also feature boldly.
Von Scholten was the Governor-General of the Danish West Indies from 1827 to 1848.
Commenting on whether the museums met international standards, the Executive Director of GMMB, Mr Kingsley Ofosu Ntiamoah, indicated that the issue of standards was relative and differed for countries.
However, he stressed the importance of displaying very good artefacts along with compelling narrations to attract and educate patrons.
Mr Ntiamoah said museums were essentially the drivers of the tourism industry because people were attracted to the country by the sights and experiences of the Ghanaian cultural heritage which the museums, forts and other ecotourism facilities offered.
“Museums are the drivers of culture and tourism, nobody comes to Ghana just to sleep in hotels but they come because of our cultural heritage and so the museum sector works in tandem with the hospitality industry,” he noted.
The Executive Director of GMMB, therefore, commended the President and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, for supporting the board to undertake the revamping of public museums.
Mr Ntiamoah’s gratitude also stemmed from the fact that the board had received clearance to employ 50 people of various professional backgrounds in one fiscal year to support the operations of the museums in the country.
Sharing his thoughts on the current state of museums in Ghana, the Deputy French Ambassador to Ghana, Raphael Malara, commended the government and the GMMB for the refurbishment projects for the museums, but said that was just the first step.
According to him, there was no point in comparing museums in Paris or New York to the ones in Ghana, but maintaining what the country had was most important.
“There is no point of comparison; you don't have to be ashamed of what you have,” Mr Malara pointed out.
He explained that building museums should be considered long-term projects of between 10 and 20 years, saying “they are definitely the best investment any country can do for the next generation”.
The Head of the Department of Physics, University of Ghana, Dr Martin Egblewogbe, who also shared his thoughts on museums in the country, regretted that MST, for instance, had been in bad shape for years.
He expressed the hope, however, that the gallery would soon be open to the public after the refurbishment.
“Investment is needed in a place like that because if they are to be opening the gallery seven days in a week, imagine the number of students, lecturers and researchers that will be trooping to the MST," Dr Egblewogbe, who is also an author of literally works, said rhetorically.
The next step for the management of the museum was the injection of more funds into sustaining the facility, he added.
“Museums are priceless; if you put up a good exhibition and enhance the collections people will pay to visit the museum. You need to invest well in it and you will get the returns," Dr Egblewogbe stated.
Curators, tour guides
When reached for their comments, about seven curators and tour guides declined to speak on the challenges facing their work but three of them agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
The three agreed that the museums sub-sector of the economy had not been given the required interventions and resources over the years for them to contribute meaningfully to tourism development.
They stressed the need for the procurement of more collections to enrich the various galleries.
That must go along with a reliable and sustainable financial plan to maintain the facilities.
The sources were hopeful that the ongoing rejuvenation of the sector would mark a new beginning of sustained efforts to revamp museums in the country.