Museum Futures – African Museums in the Digital Age

Published in 2021 by Turia and Kant, the Museum Futures publication features global reflections from practitioners, scholars and artists on the relevance of the museum today and it's place in future. Founder Chao Maina contributed to the book in her chapter -  African Museums in the Digital Age - An Exploration of the Continent's Museums at the Crossroads of Curatorial Change and Technology

Together, the contributions to this volume form a compendium that – with its diversity of ideas, concepts and examples – provides insights into the possibilities of a museum of the future, conveys pragmatic suggestions and critically identifies risks and bad decisions. It resolutely avoids ideological standpoints, is captivating by virtue of its openness and demands an end to intellectual colonialism.

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann

African Museums in the Digital Age – An Exploration of the Continent’s Museums at the Crossroads of Curatorial Change and Technology

In exploring the founding legacies of museums in Africa, Emmanuel Arinze observes that “African museums were created to house the curios of a ‘tribal’ people and to satisfy the curiosity of the élite citizenry almost to the total exclusion of the local people who produced the objects and materials.

Indeed, it is impossible to look at the formation of the museum sector in Africa devoid of the colonial backdrop in which they were formed. It is within this backdrop that the agenda of the postcolonial African museum emerges, an agenda that seeks to dismantle deeply embedded narratives while seeking to build a critical understanding of what museum practice means in an African context

What does an initiative such as MBC tell us about the future of museums in Africa? It shows a growing need for audiences to actively participate in history and memory making. Not just as passive consumers but as active producers in their own history. It demonstrates a need for African audiences to reclaim agency over their history, where this very agency has previously been denied through colonial and neo-colonial systems. But most importantly it demonstrates that private collectives have the potential to influence historical practice in as much as public institutions do.

Africa’s approach to incorporating digital heritage within museum practice is dependent on four key pillars: Audiences, skills, policies and infrastructure. To understand how digital technologies can alter museum practice, we first begin by asking what is perhaps the most critical question: Who will the technology serve?


As we continue to define the agenda of the postcolonial African museum, shifts in curatorial practice must also take into account shifts in audience behavior and shifts within the digital field. Which is not to
say that the digital world is devoid of challenges; significant challenges such as infrastructure and lack of funding still exist. These challenges shouldn’t however act as a deterrent to embracing technology, instead they should act as an incentive for innovation.

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