Asimi Jimoh Elebiyo

Department of Museums,

National Museum Lokoja, Nigeria.


Whereas the purposes of any Museum, are tripartite in nature from ICOM definition (which are study, enjoyment and education), the types or forms and structure by which these museums take, in other to achieve these purposes are becoming varying and increasing by the day. These have shifted from conventional immobile structures that parade the abodes of most historical and prominent cities of the world, to mobile and movable structures in form of vans and trucks that reach underserved audiences by driving directly to them and show-casing exhibits of historical, scientific and cultural forms, the fact that the latter forms “mobile museum,” apart from being community-orientated is also very much accessible and at no cost to the audience, makes an inquiring and deep insight into it weighty importance, particularly considering the fact that despite it popularity and success in U.S.A., Mexico and France, to mention few, it remains a dreaded area in most Africa nations and Nigeria in particular. What then, are the frameworks, prospects, challenges and scope of mobile museum?


The essence of museum over the years, have remained for them to serve as instruments of development and service in community in which they are situated. As agents of developments, they enforce and bring about gradual and rapid transformation directly and indirectly, via a synergy of various activities in conservation, exhibition, communication, research and in general acquisition of either artistic, industrial or scientific objects. These various activities as little or broad as they would be in their respective nature, contribute as a complete whole in effecting changes and development to the environment and indeed communities in which they are based. Communities comprise of a collection or group of individuals with a singular or common goal or interest. And since individuals, through their constant visitation and patronage of this great institution (museum), are transformed via awareness and knowledge, or their very heritage and culture, it then follows invariable that the communities in which these individuals dwell in, are automatically prone to development and change.

Technology is been applied in creating solution to the countless number of persons who would wish to visit a fixed Museum, but, due to certain reasons can not. This is made possible through mobile museums; that is the preservation and display of cultural properties in mobile vans. However, it is important to note that the standard professional practice for museum curators and their colleagues is not undermined as a mobile museum or fixed museum. As Kavanagh has shown us, one approach to estimating professionalism is to look at a range of characteristics, and on an assessment of these characteristics – in skills based on theoretical knowledge, the provision of training and education, tests of competence for members, organization, adherence to a code of conduct, and altruisic service to museum curator’s professional nature is clear (Kavanagh 1991 b:42).      

However, development cannot dwell in isolation. As the saying goes; “No man is an island”. Indeed to every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Another African adage puts in better “There is no smoke without fire”. Thus there can no development, without education and educational services. As a matter of fact, a major determinant of societal developmental level is its level of education. They are both considered to be directly proportional to each other. So that a high level of education will result in high rate of development, and vice-versa.

Museums carry out various activities of which education and conservation are prime. However, in other to meet its role in educating and consequently developing its immediate communities, exhibits are displayed either temporary or permanent. Individuals, groups and schools are then the set – targets of these exhibits. However, the question now is; how do these individuals get to see these exhibits and become educated, so that they can transform and develop their respective communities? The answer is in two folds – It is either they come down to see these exhibits as they are being display in permanent structured buildings, or these exhibits are taken to them via, trucks or vans in form of mobile museum.

Whether the museum is ‘immobile’ or ‘mobile’, the same goals are intended and achieved. However the dimensions and proportions in which these goals are achieved under both platforms may be different, considering the environment and other economic and peculiar circumstances. A major challenge that have necessitated the evolution of mobile museums over the years, have been that of wider audiences and patronage. There is no gain saying in the fact that, most museums have not been meeting up with their targets, with regards to visitors to their galleries and exhibitions. In most cases, majority of the visitors are adults and non-schooling age group. Even when schools do patronize them, it is the financial capable ones that are able to do this, leaving behind the non-financially buoyant schools, wherein are the population of a vast majority of commoners, in whose hands are saddled the huge responsibility of delivering a better future to this generation. In the long run, museums are unable to meet up with the challenge of effecting positive changes and developments in their respective communities. Thus putting them in a most peculiar paradox. Being that as it were, there is a popular saying, that “if mohammed refuses to go to the mountain, the mountain will come to mohammed”. So that if museums are not meeting up with the required patronage, then museums should be taken to the public – Thus mobile museums!

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