2 July 2019

Liberia: U.S. Official Turns Over Literary and Historical Collections to National Museum

Marie Royce, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, has in keeping with the philosophy of preserving documents and records, turned over to authorities of the Liberia National Museum several literary and anthropological (historical) collections written by both Liberian-Americans and Liberians.

Madam Royce presented the items on Friday, June 28, 2019, at the National Museum in Monrovia, along with the archival copies of the original documents that led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Liberia and the United States; the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Liberia, and Liberia's Instrument of Ratification.

Among the collections are "A Doctor's Ebola Story Inferno" by Stephen Hatch; "Liberia Development Conference Anthropology" by USAID Mission Director, Anthony S. Chan; "She Would be King" by Wayetu Moore; "Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race" by Edward Wilmot Blyden, "Nuggets of the African Novel" by K. Moses Nagbe; and "Another America -- The story of Liberia And The Former Slaves, Who Ruled It" by James Ciment.

The other books was "And Still Peace Did Not Come:" A memoir of Reconciliation by Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna and Emily Holland.

The rest include, "The Mask of Anarchy" by Stephen Ellis; "West Africa Before European and other Addresses Delivered in England" by Edward Wilmot Blyden, and "Ambition and Atrocity in Africa's Lone Star State--Charles Taylor and Liberia" by Colin M. Waugh.

Liberia has a poor record in documenting events and document preservation that many historians and literary writers have found it difficult to trace the true records of the country's history and culture.

Furthermore, the 14-year war fought in the country devastated everything that the National Museum turned into debris until 2017, when it renovation work was completed and the building was reopened for normal activities.

Additionally, Dr. Joseph Saye Guannu, one of Liberia's prolific writers of history, has said that they are not supported by the government of the day, because the leader will always want to be presented in the work positively even if there is no positivity in the life of that leader.

While presenting the collections, Madam Royce said, "Like the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., Liberia's National Museum has many important stories to tell."

She added, "National museums are places of memories and inspirations; for they preserve and protect precious works of art and culture, as well as everyday objects that record who we are and where we came from."

She said it is against this backdrop that the unique relationship between United States and Liberia are bound together "inextricably."

The Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the U.S. and Liberia was signed 157 years ago in 1862. This treaty, according to Madam Royce, accomplished a number of important things, including the terms of free trade between the two countries; mutual assistance for America and Liberian vessels in the event of trouble at sea, and most importantly, the U.S. officially recognizing a free and independent Republic of Liberia.

She emphasized that national museums, such as Liberia's are strong places of interest for tourists, because they engage their visitors and promote the enjoyment and sharing of authentic cultural and historical heritage.

Before making the presentation, Madam Royce had taken a tour along with Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, and the director of the National Museum, Albert Saye Markeh. As the museum appears now contrary to its previous state before 2017, new and modern paintings and writings are displayed, while historical materials, including photos of various events of Liberia and Presidents, cultural masks, jersey #14 of President George Weah, past and present newspapers, country cloths, traditional musical instruments and national currencies are on display in glass booths for visitors to see.

Madam Royce described the scene as an impressive cultural and historical treasure for the enjoyment and appreciation of Liberians today and the generation to come, expressing further the hope that other foreign visitors will enjoy this "impressive" collection just as much as she did.

She quoted President Donald Trump: "We write symphonies. We pursue innovations. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers."

Madam Royce expressed the hope that the U.S will continue supporting Liberian efforts to preserve its history and culture; working in partnership with the government and other stakeholders.

Some means of collaboration, she said, will involve the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, a merit-based grant competition administered by her (Marie's) team in ECA.

"Through the Ambassador's Fund, the U.S. helps to preserve cultural heritage around the world, and shows our respect for other culture," she added.

According to Madam Royce, these grants joined with national efforts, can provide funding for strategic planning, preservation and archiving expertise, as well as restoration capacity.

She said in Africa the Ambassador's Fund has already successfully supported over 200 cultural preservation projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including 74 projects in West Africa.

"The projects covered a wide range of heritage, from the conservation of endangered manuscripts in Mali to the documentation of traditional music in Senegal, and ancient rock arts in Nigeria," Madam Royce said.

"We would be very pleased to see an Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation application from Liberia later this year; we will be providing more information to the Ministry about this program through the Embassy," she said.

Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, expressed appreciation to the U.S. Government, dating back to the existence of the national museum in the 1800s.

Nagbe said Liberia attaches seriousness to the preservation of its culture as a committed member of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), noting that no country can develop in the absence of preserving and upholding its culture.

He acknowledged that improvement of the National Museum came through the instrumentality of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after it had been destroyed and neglected during the course of the 14-year war.

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