6 June 2007

Zambia: Copperbelt Museum Yet to Develop Plot 43 Years On

MUSEUMS play a crucial role in the promotion of tourism development through preservation of the heritage of mankind in the community.

They also play an important cultural part in Zambia's tourism arena by attracting tourists from within and outside Zambia.

The Government of Zambia has shown interest in the development and advancement of museums in the country.

All this is because museums are a storage of heritage and historical data. There is data that cannot be traced in the national archives, but which can be found in the museum. Therefore, the Copperbelt museum is a vital asset to the province.

It is housed in a former shop on Buteko avenue, right in the heart of the city centre. But the building is small and only allows in a portion of the museum's total collection.

It undoubtedly calls for construction of a new and bigger structure which will make it easier for every piece to be on display. Land is readilly available and still barren, some 43 years now since it was allocated by the Ndola City Council at independence in 1964.

The Copperbelt museum was established in 1962 when the steering committee of civic and mine leaders met in Ndola to form the Copperbelt Museum Association, with the sole aim of establishing a living museum - a gallery of natural resources, with emphasis on ecology, conservation, geology, mining and local history.

By 1963, the association had acquired a substantial collection from the Livingstone museum and South Africa's Natal museum for exhibition at Carravelle House, which still stands on Buteko avenue in Ndola.

As the collection grew, Kitwe and Ndola municipalities got interested in having the proposed museum built in their respective towns and it had to be Ndola which, in 1964, was picked for the project for its centrality and accessibility either by road, rail or air.

After Zambia's Independence in 1964 and creation of the National Museums Board in 1966, under the Museums Act, the Copperbelt museum was in 1968 gazetted as a second State-owned museum after the Livingstone museum.

The Copperbelt museum boasts galleries with attractive exhibitions in them.

The Natural History gallery is a small balcony that displays a narrow range of exhibits of small mammals and a varied collection of birds of Zambia from the fish eagle, the national bird of freedom, to a kingfisher.

Moths and butterflies are there. The gallery ends with fascinating mural displays of wildlife in Zambia.

Most birds are exhibited in their "natural" habitats, including the peaceful eagle and the patient vulture.

The idea behind this gallery is to arouse interest and public awareness of the need to conserve Zambia's wildlife resources for posterity.

The other gallery consists of temporary exhibitions, a gallery reserved for special and rare exhibitions on selected themes and objects. Such exhibitions are usually put upon loaned objects, objects drawn from the museum's storage rooms, where most of the collection is crated and preserved.

Stored collections can be made available on request to scholars and researchers for study and or reference purposes.

The Copperbelt museum also runs a small section of education services to help sharpen attitudes and habits of visitors' observations, enquiries and powers of imaginative thoughts.

The section is designed to sell the museum and local historic sites while providing guided tours of the facilities for individuals or groups wishing to take pictures for films, slides and video shows for schools and college students and other interested groups or various museum-related subjects such as geology, mining, history, ecology and conservation.

National Museums Board chairman, Mwimanji Chellah, commends the great contribution made by the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs, according to a feasibility study report for the development and construction of a museum of science and technology. It supported various activities in all constituent museums of the National Museums Board in the last five years. These, he says, contributed to the activities of some private museums in Zambia.

"This feasibility study was not only supported by the Royal Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs, but it was born out of their observation that an own important museum development like this one needed a feasibility study to support," he said.

The mandate of the National Museums Board is captured under the statutory legislation cap 174 of the laws of Zambia on a sustainable basis on behalf of the Zambian Government.

Mr Chellah adds that museums worldwide play an important role in telling the story of the evolution of mankind.

"We believe, and rightly so, that science and technology is one such aspect of mankind that needs a place in our museums," he said.

The Board has also chosen a thematic approach for each National museum so as to widen the heritage specialisation in our public museums in Zambia.

Because of its advantageous location, the Copperbelt museum was chosen to capture, preserve and express the development of science and technology in Zambia.

The Government of Zambia has also developed a cultural policy in which it is committing itself to effectively and efficiently protect the country's cultural heritage, that includes museums.

The Zambia National Museums Board mainly administers museums. Currently, it is operating three national museums - Livingstone, Motomoto and Copperbelt.

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