The Museum is a place where people can see history, culture and creativity.
Museum is an institution, which collects, stores and studies man-made objects and those in their natural environment for the sake of information, education and enjoyment. Museum is the mirror of man’s activity, his place of abode, his cultural and social environment. It is a research institution where people visit to know about their cultural past.
There are many reasons why people visit the Museum. The first reason is that some people like to study history. As they have learned in history, people like to justify their knowledge and to know about people and their history, their appearance, activities, foods, cloth and jewelry. Museum is the best place we can determine some ideas about them.
The second reason is curiosity. Some visitors are curious to know what takes place in the Museum with particular reference to the National Museum Lagos where visitors come to see the car, which the former Head of State, late General Murtala Mohammed who was assassinated in 1976. These group of people still have the impression that the Museum is a place where old things are kept and they come purposely to see those ancient relics of our material culture. Some people visit the Museum simply for educational purpose to be educated: this group includes students, tourists and serious minded people who want to educate themselves through the education resources provided by the Museum.
Most people visit the Museum for research purpose; Museums have in their galleries and stores objects, which serve as evidence of cultural history. These objects are collectively referred to as material or heritage resources. Most of the objects in the Museum collection usually have dates stored in catalogues and are kept as record to be analyzed and studied by interested scholars or researchers. These objects tell a lot of stories of the past for today’s generation and preservation for the future generations. A number of people visit the Museum simply for leisure or on vacation; some of them use the Museum premises for picnics, parties or fun fares. Their primary reason for visiting the Museum is to enjoy the atmosphere which exists within the Museum premises, have fun and take photographs. Some come to the Museum to be entertained either through Museum exhibitions or other entertainment packages.
Another group of Museum visitors are people who come to while away time in the Museum premises. Among these are people who may have some time to spare before a business appointment and to seize the opportunity to visit a nearby Museum; also some use it as center of appointments. Some people like to watch creativity. Some Museums represent arts and creativity. They like to watch and admire artistic knowledge.
Museums are examples of informal learning environment, which means they are devoted primarily to informal education, a lifelong process whereby individuals acquire attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experiences and the educative influence and resources in his or her environment. A single visit to a Museum can expose visitors to in-depth information on a subject and the nature of Museum environment is one in which you can spend as much time as you like exploring exhibits. The Museum environment allows you to form your own unique experience and take away information that interests you. Museums help bring changes and development to communities. Research has uncovered that creating community involvement is more about location than the activity at hand and this kind of location-based learning is a trigger for change and development within community as Museums are functioning more and more like centres of providing access to current research and ideas. In museum even in some cases, especially children are actively asked to take part in their community’s programmes. The promotion of education and the cultivation of conservation that are taking place in Museums across the Nation shape and strengthen our neighbourhoods. There is no doubt that a primary role of Museum is to engage and educate the community. Museum exhibits, inspires interest in an area of study time or period or an idea but there’s more going on in Museum with regard to education than one might think. Schools rely heavily on Museum to change their curriculum. The New York Museum education acts for example aim to create a partnership between schools and cultural institutions to prepare for the 21 century. Galleries are becoming classrooms and not just for kids. Even the Museum themselves have interesting histories to inspire and educate visitors. It becomes impossible to exit a Museum without having gained any information or insight during your visit.
• Patricia Itsede is of the Education Department, National Museum Benin City.

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