Young people flock to museums, parks for selfies and learning

Young students take a selfie at the National Museum of Kenya on July 7, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Selfie taking and young tourists are leading to an increase in visitors to game parks and museums.

Visitor numbers to snake parks last year more than doubled to 403,700 from 160,700 in 2021, growth attributed mainly to the reopening of museums and heritage sites after being closed for six months in 2020 due of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Museum visits, however, are below 990,200 recorded visits in 2019, compared to more than 1.5 million people who visited national parks and game reserves.

Caroline Mwenda, head of marketing for National Museums of Kenya, attributes the growth in numbers to an increase in domestic tourism and locals’ interest in heritage issues.

“Interesting for families, children ask questions and their parents, in turn, seek a place where they can answer those questions,” Ms Mwenda says.

“Another interesting factor is Instagram. We have seen an increase in the number of young people coming to museums. Because we are an Instagrammable space. You find the young people who come to take pictures and we welcome them to take selfies. When they are in museums, we believe they also learn something. For us, it is not what brings them but the fact that they are in space and that they learn about their heritage.

Visitors to the Kisumu National Museum quadrupled to 52,800 while those to the Nairobi National Museum tripled to 102,600 from around 35,200 in 2021.

Visitor numbers to Fort Jesus more than doubled to 101,600 during the reporting period.

More than 25 museums are organized differently inside the gallery spaces and outside.

The importance of Kenyan art and heritage is undeniably increasing as major museums catch up. The National Museum of Kenya (NMK), for example, has outdoor spaces with cultural crafts such as stone carvers, metalworkers, a medicinal botanical garden and a nature trail.

“All of this encourages us to celebrate our heritage, our culture and our art. We have art that dates back 5,000 years,” adds Ms Mwenda.

“The internal spaces of different galleries celebrate different themes. There is the Hall of Kenya, celebrating what Kenya is like from kiondos, musical instruments, hall of mammals showing their different types of movements, way of eating and defense mechanisms.

National museums are the biggest collectors and holders of art in Kenya. Accordingly, NMK has proposed to set up a national art gallery which will contain some of these paintings, handicrafts, murals and mosaics.

Other museums have farms such as Bomas, Kitale and Kapenguria.

“We try to showcase our heritage and ethnicity in beautiful ways. We have partnered with theater groups that re-enact what happens on these farms. This therefore allows national and international tourists to experience the lifestyles of our ethnic communities,” she adds.

Museums also show how cultures have celebrated events from birth, initiation and marriage to the final rest and modernity.

It also includes the history of Kenya from the time of migration, the struggle for independence and the juakali sector.

The museums have collaborated with institutions such as the Central Bank of Kenya to showcase historical modes of trade and means of exchange such as the use of cowries, coins and currency exchange from the Company era from the East Indies to the British Imperial East Africa Company. to the new banknotes.

Museums that are major players in the tourism industry have also partnered with Google on Google Arts and Culture, allowing people around the world to explore museum and gallery collections from the comfort of their digital devices.

The Nairobi National Museum organized the Invisible Inventories exhibition last year in partnership with the Goethe-Institut, to repatriate Kenyan artifacts from foreign museums.

Museums including the National Museum, Gedi, Kisumu and Kitale have snake parks which Ms Mwenda said are used for education and research on anti-venom development.

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