The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the economic and social life of Ugandans, and of the world at large. One of its lesser-known effects has been the heavy strain it has placed on efforts to preserve and protect cultural heritage.
In Uganda, museums play an important role in our societies: they not only preserve our common heritage, but also provide spaces that promote education, tourism, inspiration and dialogue.
It is in this light that CCFU, supported by REMPART and the ALIPH Foundation, has implemented a project to mitigate the impact of COVID 19 on museums. As part of this initiative, this on online site has been developed for community museums in Uganda.
Background to community museums in Uganda
In many parts of Uganda, you will be surprised to find a community museum. These are initiatives by individuals, families or groups who have collected artifacts, oral history, and other elements of the local culture.
These museums are making great strides in linking past and future through their collections which attract school children, researchers, local residents, as well as local and foreign tourists. They also play an important role in preserving and presenting the diversity of Uganda’s cultural heritage and provide spaces for appreciating different cultures. Some have well documented literature on culture and others provide spaces for Uganda’s ethnic minority groups to showcase their cultural resources.
With the growth of tourism – including cultural tourism – as a major international industry, heritage and museums are becoming part of modern economies and are increasingly driven by private sector and community initiatives. With this evolution, the „community dimension‟ of heritage has become more prominent, as well as the connection between heritage, its preservation and management, and development – especially in the poorer countries. Community museums and heritage are now increasingly seen as involving all sectors of society.
Community museums are also a manifestation of moving away from the museums set on colonial hills to our own museums, conceptualised and developed by members of local communities in the different parts of Uganda.
To date, there are about 28 community museums in all parts of the country, with fewer in Northern and Eastern Uganda than elsewhere, because these regions were in the recent past affected by war and displacement. This has not only put immediate survival needs at the forefront, but has also led to a breakdown of cultural values. Some museums are located along main transport routes or in main towns and others in more remote areas.
Some of these initiatives are members of the Uganda Association of Community Museums. The Association was propelled by a desire to speak with one but strong voice while articulating matters concerning community museums in Uganda especially to the government and prospective sources of support.
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