Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The National History Museum of Zimbabwe, which is one of the best of such facilities in Africa, is in dire need of rehabilitation.
This sad revelation comes after a long operating period without any feasible source of revenue to enable it to conduct the necessary facelifts and maintenance.
The museum was constructed in 1901 and formally opened to the public in 1964. A 1984 evaluation positioned the museum as the eighth largest in the world.
Above: Moira shows us the leaking roof that threatens some of the museum's exhibitions.
The museum, which has some of the best collections of preserved wild animals, birds, insects, mineral resources and plant specimens, houses the second biggest mounted elephant in the world.
The Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe is not confined to wildlife collections of Zimbabwe but priced exhibits from neighbouring countries are displayed as well.
These neighbouring countries, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique, share culture and geography very much similar to that of Zimbabwe. If instead of studying
the natural history of the country, it emphasises the importance of studying the natural history of Southern Africa.
Despite these intriguing vast stores of exhibits, the institution has, in the past ten years, been waning into oblivion due to the economic meltdown that threatened to bring the country to a screeching halt.
The museum has been plagued by a menacing roof leak, which has since become a threat to the exhibits and consequentially the preservation of some important aspects of the country’s history.
However, the museum’s newly appointed Acting Director, Dr Moira Fitzpatrick, has since commenced intensive efforts to spearhead the rehabilitation of this social and educational amenity and, as a consequence, propel it to greater heights.
“There are a number of things that we need to be working on. Firstly, we need to get the security system working again. We need to get it back to a state where we are not losing anything, because if we don’t do that we are not going to get people to give us their gifts and collections if we are not secure. For keeping the public image and making the place look good, we have embarked on cleaning exercises around the museum,” she said in a wide-ranging interview recently.
“From there on, we are looking at things like this leaking roof. It’s a huge problem; I mean 30 years of a leaking roof, which is causing huge damage to the building. Its dripping down to our displays and so it’s causing damage to some of our exhibits. The real problem is that, this is an expensive project. That is something that we have to appeal to the donor community to assist us. The quote that we have is between US$30 000 and US$50 000 because the either the pitch of the roof or the gutters need to be changed. It’s actually a combination of bigger gutters and the lifting of the roof,” she said.
Furthermore, to augment these attempts to resuscitate the museum, other stakeholders and general members of the Bulawayo Community have commenced basic work towards the restoration of this crucial asset of the city and country at large. A group of city dwellers has actually established a fraternity to spearhead efforts to refurbish this national testimonial to our history.
“We have appealed to some organisations to assist us in every which way they can. We are also launching our 'Friends of the Museum', which is reaching out to the Bulawayo Community and beyond. It’s for everyone who loves the museum; everybody who wants to be involved and everybody could have anything they would like to assist us with in cash or kind. For instance, if someone is a plumber and wants to give us a free service, we would welcome that. Essentially, it is an appeal to help the museum. Actually, a lot of museums, the world over, use this concept to raise funding. We are also trying to get Minister David Coltart (Education, Sports and Culture Minister) involved. We do not really fall under his Ministry but we feel that this is also an educational centre, hence we have appealed to Min Coltart if he can help with his contacts and so forth,” revealed Dr Fitzpatrick.
All museums fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs as they protect the country’s heritage.
Apart from restoring the infrastructure at the museum, Dr Fitzpatrick and her team are busy revitalizing activities at the centre. They recently conducted the Museum Week, in which the bust of the legendary Ndebele leader, King Mzilikazi, was unveiled.
The team is also in the process of reopening the Museum to the public. This will be catapulted by a quiz for school and tertiary institutions. The quiz is to assist the youth appreciate the country’s resources and help enhance their knowledge of our history and the need to protect it!