Rwanda Museums opens doors to the public on International Museum Day
Fig:1:Students at Ethnographic Museum/Huye
Rwanda Museums offered free entrance services to the public as Rwanda joined the worldwide community of museums to celebrate the International Museum Day on 18th May 2017. Every year since 1977 International Museum Day is organized worldwide on and around 18 May each year.
The events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or a whole week. This year’s IMD theme is "Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums".
The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people.
In a special way, Rwanda Museums organized an ‘Open Day’ with free entrance to all museums around the country for the public to learn, discover and cherish Rwanda’s untapped natural and cultural heritage. Each museum branch embraces unique collections that portray the natural and cultural heritage of Rwanda, hence this gave an opportunity to thousands of national and International visitors to discover the hidden treasures preserved in these museums.
Fig:2:Live 5 meter Python held by staff at Natural History Museum/Kigali
More astonishing to the visitors was the live experience they had at each museum particularly the Natural History museum, Ethnographic Museum, King’s Palace Museum as well as the National Art Gallery. At Natural History museum, visitors were fascinated by the anxious yet exciting live experience with reptiles. You could read mixed feelings – both of fear and excitement on their faces when one of museum staff held the 5 meter Python to demonstrate and explain how more than 15 snakes are professionally preserved for education and entertainment at the museum. Visitors also were thrilled by urugangazi – museum dance troupe’s performance at the Ethnographic Museum, the live traditional cows – Inyambo parading as well as the kids’ studio at the National Art Gallery where kids exploited their artistic talent all day long.
Fig:3: King's Palace Museum received many visitors.
Museum collections offer reflections of memories and representations of history. This day therefore provided an opportunity to show how museums display and depict treasured memories which encouraged visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences hence become museum ambassadors in telling the untold museum stories.
Fig:4:Students are enjoying the games related to Rwandan culture
The ‘open day’ registered a remarkable turn up of about 4700 visitors, whereas we normally receive between 500-700 visitors a day. It was an overwhelming experience for both museum staff and the general public. This left them more yearning for another opportunity hence requested that it should be an annual event. One of the Natural History Museum’s visitors confessed his longstanding curiosity to see what is displayed in this museum. ‘It’s a shame that I did not know what is displayed in this Museum yet I am a neighbor, I have always been curious to come but I didn’t have money to pay for entry to the museum’ said Nsabumuremyi, a neighbor to the Natural History Museum. ‘I am grateful to the Museums management for the opportunity granted to the general public, I have cherished my country’s natural richness exhibited in this museum’, adds Mr. Nsabumuremyi.
Fig:5:Staff of Office of the first statehouse Lady of Kenya.
This day did not only benefit museums neighboring communities but also the international visitors. Mark Greg, an International visitor commended this initiative remarking that it did not only wave off the burden of paying for entrance but granted them chance to fully discover Rwanda’s cultural and natural heritage. ‘I am so fascinated by the Rwanda’s rich heritage preserved in this Museum’, asserted Mr. Greg. ‘I loved bonding with the beautiful and friendly royal cows-Inyambo’, he added. Greg also recommended that this initiative should be held annually because he believes it will encourage more national and International people to not only visit museums but also become their ambassadors.
Fig:5:Many students enjoyed visiting Museums
Granting this opportunity to the general public was a sign of giving back to the community whilst serving Rwanda Museums’ vision which is to provide museums and heritage sites around the country with a platform for educating and exposing Rwandan Cultural and Natural richness. This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of a global society and we are glad that it was a success.