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Chairman’s Foreword
The history of Ghana’s Museums and Monuments Board has been chronicled by Nana Oforiatta Ayim, the director of the ANO Institute of Arts and Knowledge, and her excellent contributors. Their essays indicate the need for the country to modernise and expand the activities of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board with the establishment of a new act, entitled New Museums Act.
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Editor’s Introduction
The Imperialist principles on which many of the so-called Universal or Encyclopaedic Museums were built now no longer hold, with many of the objects taken as colonial loot contested. How do we reimagine museums in this new moment where cultures stand shoulder to shoulder, rather than as coloniser and colonised? What kind of structures do we create? What kinds of relationships and narratives do we build?
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Ghana's Museums & Monuments Board
The Museum’s initial collection, (...) was an eclectic mix of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts amassed largely by foreigners. The colonial collections were at best unrepresentative of the territories under their administration. The collections were transferred directly to the Ghana National Museum and most of the bias and nuances associated with such collections has not been corrected post-independent by Ghanaian curators.
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Museums as we know them, at least the so-called Encyclopedic museums, are based on the lie of the objective; of a flattened ’universal’ that comes from a single vantage point looking out at all the others, labelling them, Othering them and muting them by way of temperature-controlled glass cases. Worse, this way of seeing has been posited as the ‘standard of care’ to which we should aspire (...). And yet, we have had many centuries of exhibiting, of seeing, of experiencing, of caring.
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The monuments also archive (...) Ghana’s early architectural history; the contribution of local peoples to the construction and function of the facilities; the impact that the monuments (and activities associated with them) have had on the society, culture, economy and cognitive structures of the local people; and the strategies local people used to manage physical (and other forms of) conflict that the architects of the monuments and their ways of life engendered.
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Park museums (and community museums associated with parks and reserves) provide invaluable conduits for learning about the indigenous knowledge systems, resilient traditions, cultures, and creative arts of the people, whose engagement with their landscape and environment spans millennia to form the larger story of the parks and communities that host them. These museums can thus help promote Ghana’s biocultural heritage and ecological history.
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Effective implementation of community-based engagement museum programmes and strategies –such as making communities part of the management team of museums; (...) co-curating exhibitions and organising education outreach programmes with communities; creating community collaborative collecting and interpretation teams; (...) and offering opportunities for communities to fund museum programmes–are crucial now for the management of museums in Ghana.
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Museums have the potential to be sites for meaningful social engagement and advancement, and the world of education design is purpose-built for improved interactions between individuals and knowledge systems. The evolution of technology and the energy of younger generations can be harnessed to rebuild museum spaces that preserve our cultural heritage to ensure that Ghana’s history is inextricably connected with its future.
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What word or phrase in your language speaks to what a building may become when reformulated as a body made up of a skeleton, skin and possibly a few essential organs—a body, or bounded system—that may be living now, in the past, or in the future? Given that all matter exists as part of a continuous process cycle circulating life and death and being, how do you talk or listen to a building? How do you dialogue, or dance, with architecture that is alive (...) ?
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(...) It has been estimated that “up to 90% of sub-Saharan Africa’s cultural heritage is currently held outside the continent” as a result of “plunder, theft and colonisation, as well as legitimate trade and exchange.” Ghanaian cultural items are found in public institutions in the following countries: Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the USA. Making an inventory is pivotal in knowing and identifying which items are held outside of Ghana.
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Organizational Structure
(...) Ghana has more than 50 ethnic groups. It is these diverse groups that serve as the inputs for developing a shared Ghanaian consciousness that will require oversight, intentionality and a constant co-creation process. Ghanaian culture also serves as a meeting point for the African Diaspora community and grounds their African roots in an embracing and welcoming central point. This creates an opportunity to develop a regional and a global narrative (...).
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Financial Strategy
Museums, monuments and parks compete with other institutions operating in the cultural and entertainment sector for visitors, their free time and their money. Whilst the main purpose of these spaces is not to make money, defining appropriate strategies to increase competitiveness will help them attract the resources they need to fulfil their mission and goals successfully.
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Legal Framework
The fundamental problem for museum culture in Ghana is that it remains wedded to the colonial structures and purposes with which it was established. Conceived to memorialise objects and tableaux of African life, the system is not designed for more than archiving relics.
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New Museums Act
An Act to alter the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board: to provide for the separation of public monuments from public museums; to make new provision with respect to the regulation of museums and monuments; to make new provision for national parks and reserves; and to provide for related matters.
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