The disheartening news that the home of the only remaining national museum will soon be no more is absurd. The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry is entertaining plans to demolish it and in its place, put up a 60-storey office block. The museum will then occupy two floors in this gigantic monster of a 200-metre high building.
The Uganda museum (founded in 1908) is the container of Uganda’s historic memories. It is located on Kiira Road, near Mulago hospital, about 4 km from Kampala city centre. The museum is a true reflection of Uganda’s multicultural past displaying the countries indigenous culture, archeology, history, science, and natural history.
It was inaugurated in 1908 at Lugard’s Fort on Old Kampala Hill in Kampala city, and is regarded as the biggest and the oldest museum in Uganda. The museum was relocated to Makerere University in the school of industrial and fine arts and from there it was shifted to Kitante Hill, where it stands today in 1954.
Apart from being a national historical monument, the museum houses a collection of historical artifact. It is also a source of information about more than 650 cultural heritage sites dotted across the country. This means that the national museum is a centre of learning about the life, culture and heritage of Ugandans.
In 1977, the museum was put under the government by amalgamating its services with the department of antiquities and it thus became the department of antiquities and museums. The running of the museum is the responsibility of the Uganda government.
Uganda needs the museum therefore every effort should be made to guarantee its existence for posterity not demolishing it. Plans should be made to upgrade it to capture and reflect the country’s cultural and socio-economic transformation over the years.
All advanced societies have preserved such centres because of their unique and vital functions, including collecting scientific, educational and research works to enhance a sense of national identity.
It should be at the national museum that Uganda’s past should be able to intersect with the present. The building that houses the Uganda National Museum is itself an attraction. It was designed by Ernst May, a German architect and planner of some repute more than 60 years ago. He was one of the pioneers of modern architecture, city architect and planner in Frankfurt, and founding member of CIAM (Congrès Internationax d’Architecture Moderne).
When the Great Depression made it impossible to continue his work in Frankfurt, May went with a ‘Planning Brigade’ to the Soviet Union and worked on plans for several new towns until Stalin’s less than progressive attitude towards architecture and planning made it unfeasible for him to stay.
May then came to Tanganyika in 1934 and later settled in Nairobi. He was instrumental as far as the development of modern architecture and modern planning in East Africa is concerned. He made a plan for Kampala in 1947, and one of his last assignments before he eventually went back to Germany was the Uganda National Museum. It is one of the few remaining and fairly unaltered works of his.
Uganda is a unique and captivating tourist destination in terms of culture. The Uganda museum and Uganda’s Kingdoms present a rich cultural heritage that Uganda proudly boasts over other African safari destinations.