According to Spectrum of Science, 2013, there were are only an estimated of less than 600 registered Museums in Africa for a population of around 1.3 billion. Lira, in northern Uganda has no Museum of its own, despite the fact, that Lira is the cultural orientation point for around 3 million Langi in the area.
Lira University, with its Department for Health Sciences, founded in 2010, is a young institution, with a focus on applied education and rural health services. The University developed its curricula in community services, with a strong inclusion of indigenous knowledge and local traditions of the Lango culture, which is part of the greater cultural context of “cattle herders”. The rural population in Uganda, which is actually still around 75 percent of the total population, is represented at and around Lira, by the culture of Langi and Karamojong cattle herders.
The collection of daily items of this cattle herder culture is shown, as an exhibition at the Library of the University Campus. The Library is meeting point and culmination point of learning for the students, and is full at any given moment hosting more than 50 students, inclusive of E´ learning.
VISION, MISSION AND AIMS
In the education curriculum of the University, priority is given to teaching cultural and historical backgrounds, for a better understanding of local traditions and rituals, which can be used for a more comprehensive, medical practice in a larger community context. It is a fundamental conviction, that while serving the countryside in health delivery, it is of paramount importance, to do that within the cultural framework of people’s cultural and health beliefs.
At the same time, the historical knowledge and specific cultural practices in Lango subregion, were often only“ documented” by oral traditions, which are given on orally only from older generations to the younger one. So a documented preservation of these traditions and history, becomes urgent in all of Africa, and thereby of course also for Lango sub-region, in particular, in view of the recent history of that region, with civil conflict until 2006 and the respective cultural erosion.
With its collection the Lira University Museum plays an important role in the preservation of this natural and cultural heritage of Uganda, and is part of the cultural education of the students and staff of the Lira University and the public around it. So, it will contribute towards the understanding and appreciation of culture by the local people, as well as form an international platform for exchange on the subject. The Museum will help students and teaching staff alike, in the performance of their scientific work, with being centered on health aspects, and their reflection in the culture of cattle herders.
According to the Statutes of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), Lira University Museum, is a non-profit and permanent institution in the service of society, being open for the public for the purpose of education, study and enjoyment .
Acquisition, Conservation, Research, Communication and Exhibition
These principles, that determine the work of Lira University Museum, are unchangeable and permanent.
The entire collection of objects in the Lira University Museum consists of an amount of about 600 pieces. These include adornment, beads, pipes, money substitutes, bridal wealth and others. By this composition, the materialized culture is represented in a suitable way. The acquisition of objects and the expansion of the collection will be defined by keywords, which ensure, that this expansion will extrapolate the missions and appointments of Lira University Museum in the future. So all acquisition activities has to follow the rules:
- Objects with historical background.
- Objects with contemporary background.
- Preferring everyday used objects, not rare objects.
- Preferring typical objects, not extraordinary ones.
- Objects representing the complete variety of cattle herder cultures.
The collection of the Lira University Museum is the essential core of all its museum functions. So it is of particular importance to save it from damage and loss. The collection has to have a continuous basis, is not part of any economic system, and non-marketable in the future.
The documentation of all objects of the Museum is urgent and will be realized, by an inventory-system and cataloguing of any new or existing item. The second step in conservation is preserving. This will be implemented by an adequate depot.
Research and Communication
The scientific research on the traditional oral history of cattle herders and related, such as indigenous knowledge and local traditions, reflected in daily used items and objects, are important missions of the Museum. The documentation of the utilization of the objects and the recording of oral information and statements about handling and conventions would also be realized by the museum staff. In result, the findings will be communicated as a multimedia permanent exhibition with a prolongation as a virtual museum in the world wide web.
Lira University Museum is an open institution, where scientists and interested people are able to research with the help of the museum archive, or work together in research projects. Additionally, the Museum provides an educational program for students and staff of the Lira University, and interested people, in the historical and cultural heritage of indigenous knowledge, and local traditions for schools and education institutions around Lira.
The collection of Lira University Museum, and the results of the scientific research, are displayed at a permanent exhibition, located at the library building of the University, which will periodically be modernized and updated.
Lira University Museum wants to be part of the historical memory of Uganda. The important and threatened indigenous knowledge will be preserved at this permanent institution, and be object of research in many ways. In items, exhibits, documents and multimedia content the specific cultural tradition of Uganda will be more accessible and “hands on” experience. So eventually, the natural and cultural heritage of the cattle herder cultures of Uganda, become a part of the well recorded history of the African world, and through education and communication, an important part of the identity of the people of Uganda.
In the future the Lira University Museum will create an Internet platform for the documentation and systematic display of materialized culture of cattle herders of Langi, Acholi, Karamojong, Teso, and the complete array of the ethnic minority groups in North and North-eastern Uganda. This could extend to Pokot, Turkana and Dinka and others).