Why Calabar History Museum no longer attracts traffic | Dailytrust

Why Calabar History Museum no longer attracts traffic

Slave History Museum Calabar
Slave History Museum Calabar

The famous Slave History Museum in Calabar seems to be decaying. It appears not to be attractive anymore.

The endless influx of residents, fun seekers and tourists to the place witnessed in the early 2000s seems to have halted.

The place no longer holds the pull it had when it was established during the heydays of Mr Donald Duke as governor of Cross River State between 1999-2007.

Today, one will be very lucky to have one or two visitors saunter into the museum.  It used to be a centre of attraction.  

Now, it is more like a ghost of itself; even despair and loneliness sometimes seem to play on the faces of workers.

The Slave History Museum is part of the larger Marina Resort which situates adjacent to the Calabar Beach and next to Perigrino, the official residence of the governor of Cross River State.  Donald Duke established it as part of his tourism agenda but it has been taken over by the National Museum and Monuments Commission.

The slave History Museum holds together artefacts about the genesis of the slave trade in West Africa, Europe, the Caribbeans and the Americas.

Old Residency Museum Calabar

 

It is segmented into different departments and era.

The big bungalow also holds cultural artefacts relative to Niger Delta region of Nigeria as well as library of assorted books.

When visitors arrive, they are registered. At the well laid out reception, they watch shot films about the slave trade to prepare their minds towards what they will see inside or the picture of what actually transpired in those days.

Thereafter, the visitors are then guided step by step through all the historic periods of the slave trade and the dramatis personae involved in the big business of the time arranged in their different departments.

EMOTION

Some of the visitors have declared that there is no one that is taken through the history museum who would not be arrested by emotions.

Willie Nelson, 37-year-old resident of the ancient city, who has frequented the museum over time said, “Any time I come out of that museum, it provokes a lot of anger and bitterness within me such that I would feel like taking a revenge against those slave masters that ill-treated, killed and bundled my forebears to their fields where they toiled with their blood.”

Today, the value of the slave museum is waning. Onlookers believe that poor management and lack of attention by succeeding governments have impacted against it.

The surroundings are unkempt. At a time, wild grasses, cobwebs and dry leaves overtook it. Parts of the walls were wearing out and the lighting system poor.

About four years ago, there were reports suggesting that the place was vandalised and layabouts took refuge there.

In an interview with the curator of the museum, Mrs Omawunmi Ofumaka, about the state of the museum, she said it was in dire need of assistance.

She said the state government used to do a lot in the area of tourism but that today the story is different.

She denied that due to some challenges the History Museum was closed down, maintaining that it is open and running.

On the state of the museum, she said she has just sent a quotation to the National Museums and Monuments in Abuja, hoping that the authorities there would respond soon to enable renovation works begin.

“Nigeria has two Slave History Museums, one in Calabar and the other in Badagry.  These museums, especially the one in Calabar keeps relics of the transatlantic slave trade and modern-day slavery. So, it should be maintained and updated.

“Since I came in as curator in the Calabar Slave History Museum, we have worked on the sound systems, air conditioners, and generator which were all in poor working conditions before now but a lot still needs to be done.

“Although, museums are run by the National Museums and Monuments, it behoves on the states and individuals who are stakeholders to come and assist the museum and ensure that it is up and running the way it should,” she said.

Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Cross River, Eric Anderson, said the museums are no longer directly run by his state but by the National Museum and Monuments.

He said his state should not be held responsible for the state of the museum, adding that from time to time, they do extend supports to the facility.

In an interview, an expert on museums and antiquities and former managing director of Cross River State Tourism Board, Gabe Onah, who represented Nigeria in the annual UN Slave Memorial Conference in Atlanta USA in 2010, spoke about the Slave History Museum Calabar and slave History movement.

“The Salve History Museum Calabar is one of the strong tourism icons in the state.  It remains the organic connect between the homeland and those in the diaspora.

“Our brothers and sisters in the diaspora who are willing to reconnect with the past in search of their routes will find it a low hanging fruit to actualize their desire to return.

“And most of these people are high income earners, and retirees coming in search of their routes. And therein lies the Tourist Dollars or Naira as the case may be.”

Onah said it is the reason they have identified a great need for an inventory of artifacts used during the era of slave trade as part of their efforts in the preservation of culture for future generations.

Calling for positioning of DNA machines in such places, he said it will be the icing on the cake of this initiative.

Onah said the DNA machine will help to screen and identify the origin of black sisters and brothers across the west African coast who would flock back home.

He said, “It is on record at the national museum that the Old Calabar as it was known then experienced the passage of over 30 per cent of the 2.4m slaves that left to the new world and herein lies the connect – that we share spiritual links and cultural ties with our brothers and sisters in the diaspora.  

“This effort will put paid to wondering spirits of the recipients and lead to a cross border healing as this will continue to humanize society through a seamless experience.”

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