While the Covid-19 pandemic initially pulled Legacy’s small ‘mini museum’ activities to a sharp standstill, along with ongoing plans to celebrate Legacy’s 25th anniversary, it has most definitely given a big kick-start to ambitions laying on the back burner, such as making greater use of digital technology. Like others, since the lockdown we have joined the surge in the use of digital platforms to communicate. Rather than sitting in traffic trying to cross log-jammed Lagos for meetings, our members have been busy setting up Zoom meetings and rapidly planning and generating new ideas. Plans already afoot to put our recent ‘Railway Heritage in Nigeria’ exhibition online have become even more immediate, as well as for posting regular online bite-sized pieces of information on the built historic environment from Legacy’s records, films, and photographs.
The lockdown has made us rethink the role of museums in Africa, moving away from traditional models to ideas on how to reach audiences in a more dynamic and interactive manner. But there are gaps and divides to be bridged, especially for small museums like ours – without institutional funding, with income dependent on admissions, donations, and special programmes – who are not able to adapt and shift focus as quickly as larger, more well-supported museums, revealing the inequalities and disproportion of resources. Going forward, museums will be more reliant on information technology, so crucially ways must be found to generate income from digital content, and here creative collaboration can be a way through to help small, self-sustained museums. Telecommunications and power infrastructure issues in developing countries are expensive and challenging for its museums, making it harder to move online and connect with audiences. Given that in these very testing times so many other sectors are benefitting from the lifeblood of digital technology, our government will have no choice but to ramp up much needed improvements for fast and stable internet connectivity which can boost the heritage and arts sector in this part of the world too.