Private investment key to protecting cultural heritage — Museums Board
The Executive Director of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB), Kingsley Ofosu Ntiamoah, has underscored the need for private sector investment in projects that would help protect the country’s cultural artefacts and historical monuments.
Mr Ntiamoah said although it was the ultimate responsibility of the government to retool the GMMB to perform its mandate, the onus lay on all patriotic Ghanaians to play their part in protecting the country’s cultural heritage.
He stated that sustainable investment in the GMMB, the state institution mandated to acquire, protect, conserve and document the country's movable and immovable material heritage, was the only way the archival institution would stay relevant for the country.
“As Ghanaians, we need to see our cultural heritage as an important aspect of us. So let us commit resources to protect it for posterity,” he said.
He also stressed that the lack of commitment by successive governments to invest in the protection of national monuments and artefacts was inimical to national development and must be reversed as a matter of urgency.
Mr Ntiamoah made the call in an interview with the Daily Graphic with regard to concerns that the country risked losing its cultural artefacts if nothing was done to support the GMMB to protect the national museum.
Kingsley Ofosu Ntiamoah (right), Executive Director of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, explaining a point to Timothy Ngnenbe, a reporter of the Daily Graphic
A tour of the museum by the Daily Graphic on September 18 revealed that a building serving as storage room had several grey strokes running down the walls to the rough floor, indicating leakages in the roof.
These walls, damaged windows and deteriorating roof combined with the rough floor to give the storage facility a bad look.
Although the valuable articles in the storage room had been compartmentalised into paintings, textiles and other sections, the facility was congested, dusty and suffocating.
A room, known as the strong room, where gold waste and valuable objects such as bronze, iron, metals and archeological excavations are kept, was equally deteriorating.
The Daily Graphic further observed that four white mini tents had been erected in the storage room to cover some of the artefacts.
A three-storey building project started in the 1950s by the country’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, to provide a befitting storage facility for the historical records had also been left to rot.
Work in progress
When the Daily Graphic sought answers from Mr Ntiamoah on the state of affairs at the museum, he said while it was obvious that the storage room needed some improvement, a lot had been done to bring the facility to its current state.
“I will not say that the storeroom is in a terrible state. We met the place in a bad state but we are doing a lot of work to improve it. What we are doing is work in progress. Successive governments have neglected the place. It is this current Minister of Tourism who has shown great interest in protecting our cultural heritage,” he said.
He added that the laboratory at the museum was extremely hot and curators could not even stay there, “but we have bought air conditioners and improved the situation.”
Mr Ntiamoah also said the GMMB had started the process of acquiring more metal racks to store the artefacts.
He revealed further that the board had acquired modern cameras and laptops and began the process to digitise the records at the museum.
“To even open the museum’s gallery is a huge success. It was closed for about seven years and reopened on June 10, 2022 by the President. We are taking one thing at a time, and we will surely get to the desired point,” he said.
Mr Ntiamoah said the GMMB had started the process of digitising records of all the artefacts to make it easy for patrons to access a repository of the museums and monuments in the country.
“We started the process and realised that our equipment were outmoded so we had to replenish them. Thankfully, we have bought laptops and cameras and started documenting the artefacts. We are hoping that we should be done with the digitisation process by the end of next year,” he said.
Again, the GMMB executive director said the board had been able to compile a register of all its assets.
“When I took office as the executive director, we did not have assets register; but we have gone round the country and now have a full assets register. So we now know that this is the asset we have as an institution,” he added.
He also said the GMMB had been able to develop a management plan for the country’s forts and castles, making it easy to properly manage those monuments.
Mr Ntiamoah also said the GMMB had begun the process of establishing a presidential automobile museum to preserve vehicles used by the country’s presidents since independence.
“Now, we have the cars of some presidents here already. We have the cars used by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, J. J. Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and other presidents. We are trying to get the private sector on board to help us establish the museum,” he said.
In spite of the numerous success stories, Mr Ntiamoah said the GMMB was grappling with the issue of inadequate staff.
He said the board currently had 200 permanent staff, which was inadequate, especially when the institution was working to extend its presence across the 16 regions.
Mr Ntiamoah said the GMMB had started working with the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the recruitment of more workers.
“The PSC has asked us to submit our scheme of work based on which the number of employees required will be determined,” he said.
Some arts and cultural artefacts enthusiasts have expressed worry that the nation risked losing critical historical records and artefacts at the National Museum in Accra owing to decades of neglect.
A documentary filmmaker, Akosua Baayie Quaynor, described as worrying the inability of the National Museum to fully protect artefacts in its storage room because of the lack of investment.
She said it was a blot on the country’s conscience that the museum, which served as a reservoir of the country’s cultural heritage, was currently in a deplorable state.
Ms Quaynor called for a concerted national effort involving all stakeholders to support archival institutions to help preserve the country’s identity.
She described as worrying the situation where the national museum, Information Services Department (ISD), state media organisations and universities poorly preserved important national records.
“As a country, we are doing a disservice to our own memory bank because these pictures and films are our memory bank. If we do not remember who we have been, we cannot inspire ourselves to become better,” she added.
Ms Quaynor, who is currently working on a project dubbed “Documenting Ghana”, said her visit to some archival institutions had shown that while there were no comprehensive films on the country’s heritage, artefacts depicting the material culture were also deteriorating because of poor storage.
For instance, she said, there were valuable pictures at the archival unit of the ISD but the conditions under which the photographs were being preserved were unfortunate.
“The pictures are posted on foolscap sheets and big notebooks with glue. At the time that method was used, maybe it was appropriate but in this modern era there should be support to improve upon them because deterioration will set in,” she said.
“I saw hope at the Graphic Communications Group Ltd because the archival unit was comparatively the best one. There was some structure. I got the newspaper clippings I was looking for,” Ms Quaynor noted.
She stressed that the preservation of the country’s material culture was crucial as it served as a guide to national development.
“If you do not preserve a fact that stands as a testament to your story, someone can come and change it. We have to leave something for our descendants to hold on to,” she added.