New book charts course for mu­se­ums

Lesotho Times - - Weekender - Mo­halenyane Phakela

THE Morija Mu­seum and Ar­chives (MMA), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Royal Ar­chives and Mu­seum on Mon­day launched a book which ex­plores the evo­lu­tion and struc­ture of mu­se­ums in the coun­try at Al­liance Française in Maseru.

Writ­ten by Morija Mu­seum cu­ra­tor, Stephen Gill, Mu­se­ums Le­sotho: Build­ing Upon the Legacy, also seeks to out­line how dif­fer­ent mu­se­ums, ar­chives and her­itage sites in the coun­try could be co­or­di­nated. Le­sotho is the only coun­try in the south­ern Africa re­gion with­out a na­tional mu­seum and other cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture such as art gal­leries, cul­tural cen­tres, theatre and film stu­dios, craft cen­tres and am­phithe­atres.

Gill told the Week­ender on the side­lines of the launch cer­e­mony that the book came about fol­low­ing meet­ings he held with govern­ment of­fi­cials and other stake­hold­ers over the past two years. The book was also meant to for­mu­late ideas for the op­er­a­tions of the Na­tional Mu­seum in Le­sotho, which is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion and sched­uled to be com­pleted in 2017. The mu­seum, which is meant to pro­tect his­tor­i­cal and nat­u­ral arte­facts, will be lo­cated near the old par­lia­ment build­ing in Maseru.

“We had sev­eral meet­ings with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers re­gard­ing the na­tional mu­seum that is about to emerge in the heart of Ma- seru. The meet­ings in­spired me to dig deeper into the his­tory of mu­se­ums and de­velop my own ideas re­gard­ing the fu­ture of the sec­tor,” Gill said.

“Since I had am­ple time on my hands and was fa­mil­iar with mu­seum work, I re­searched ex­ten­sively on Le­sotho’s his­tory and the role of mu­se­ums in other coun­tries.

“Since the end of last year, I was dig­ging deeper into the his­tory of mu­se­ums and com­bined the find­ings with the min­utes of the meet­ings I held to give peo­ple a clear per­spec­tive on the growth and de­vel­op­ment of mu­se­ums and re­lated her­itage in­sti­tu­tions in Le­sotho start­ing from the 19th cen­tury un­til the present day.”

He noted that while mu­se­ums were now as­so­ci­ated with the col­lec­tion of cul­tural, sci­en­tific or artis­tic arte­facts, they were orig­i­nally con­ceived as in­sti­tu­tions ded­i­cated to the preser­va­tion of oral cul­ture.

“It is not im­proper, there­fore that, mu­se­ums to­day should fo­cus on both col­lec­tions and liv­ing tra­di­tions as this does greater jus­tice to the larger man­date be­fore us,” said Gill.

The book, he said, also out­lined the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a well-struc­tured mu­seum to en­sure ef­fec­tive plan­ning and man­age­ment amid lim­ited re­sources.

“The book also ex­plores the dif­fer­ent ideas that have ex­isted with re­gard to a Na­tional Mu­seum in Le­sotho over the past half cen- tury, rang­ing from a sin­gle large highly cen­tralised in­sti­tu­tion in Maseru, to a broader de-cen­tralised net­work of in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try, both pub­lic and pri­vate, which are col­lec­tively tasked with man­ag­ing Le­sotho’s rich cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage,” Gill said.

Royal Ar­chives and Mu­seum deputy chair­per­son, Pro­fes­sor ‘Matšeliso MoshoeshoeChadz­ingwa, said the un­der­ly­ing mes­sage of the book was the de­vel­op­ment of a frame­work to pro­tect his­tor­i­cal and nat­u­ral arte­facts.

“Stephen’s book il­lus­trates a strong foun­da­tion upon which to fore­see a vi­able na­tional mu­seum and art gallery in the coun­try. It is highly sig­nif­i­cant that the pub­li­ca­tion co­in­cides with the con­struc­tion of the Na­tional Mu­seum and Art Gallery whose sod-turn­ing was of­fi­ci­ated by Prime Min­is­ter (Pakalitha Mo­sisili) in Novem­ber,” said Pro­fes­sor Moshoeshoe-chadz­ingwa.

“Cur­rently, there are pri­vately-owned cul­tural her­itage bod­ies at dif­fer­ent stages of de­vel­op­ment and var­ied ori­en­ta­tion in Le­sotho. There is need for a cor­dial re­la­tion­ship be­tween the na­tional um­brella body, or mother of all mu­se­ums, with ad­junct pri­vate cul­tural es­tab­lish­ments in Le­sotho. It is high time a state-owned body ex­isted.”

She added: “The launch of this book should make us aware that we are lag­ging be­hind. It should, how­ever, in­spire us to act, be pos­i­tive and achieve more.”

MORIJA Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Stephen Gill.

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