Holding Talks on Public Museums, Private Collections


Yinka Olatunbosun

A panel discussion was held recently in Lagos on the new directions for public museums and private collections and it was an opportunity for some art enthusiasts to vent- yes, vent their displeasure over the sustained practice of curating arts and artefacts at our public museums.

Being an initiative of the German cultural organisation, Goethe Institut, Lagos and SMO Contemporary Art, the special panel discussion had as theme, “Public Museums Vs Private Collections: Synergy or Competition?’’
Moderated by the manager, SMO Contemporary Art, Nneoma Ilogu, the session was held at Esther’s Revenge, Freedom Park Lagos. In her introductory remarks, Ilogu acknowledged the function of the museum for pedagogic purpose while offering statistics on the number of private museums in the US, UK and South Korea to give perspective to the global economic relevance of museums.

In his submission, the Obi of Onitsha and Founder, Chimedie Museum, His Majesty, Nnameka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, observed that funding plays a significant role in the status of a museum, which can transform from private to public entity.

While commenting on permanent collections as knowledge archives, the Director, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, South Africa and Founder, LagosPhoto Festival, Azu Nwabogu stressed the need for museums to offer genuine cultural engagements and expressed optimism in the future of collaborations between the public and private museums.

On the repatriation of the Benin arts, Nwabogu was of the view that the works should be “returned with interest.”
Edith Ekunke, an official of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, extolled the priceless collections at the public museums adding that with the artefacts, Nigeria can “interpret the past, in conjunction with the present and postulate the future.’’ She later faced the audience’s criticism for the lack of website or social media presence for the National Museum.

For the collector and philanthropist, Dr. Adhiambo Odaga, the public museums are largely under-funded to a state’s own detriment. She observed that many are oblivious to the economic value that the museum has inspite of its importance in telling the true African stories.