REMARKS BY HONORABLE LENN EUGENE NAGBE MINISTER OF INFORMATION, CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM
-On the Occasion of A Visit By U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Culture at the National Museum
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am extremely excited to have you all here today at the Liberia National Museum. On behalf of the President of Liberia, His Excellency President George M. Weah, and the rest of team at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, we welcome in a special way Assistant Secretary Marie Royce for her visit to Liberia and for finding time in her very busy schedule to visit us here at the museum. I am also happy that she’s accompanied by Ambassador Elder and her team with whom we have had excellent cooperation in many areas.The national museum epitomizes our rich cultural heritage. The edifice has been around since the 1800s; it’s an inextricable component of the country’s rich but complex history.
Many of the original collections in here were taken away or destroyed during the wars, but there are still some worthy artifacts and exhibitions which depict a scintillating culture that should bind us as a nation.
As you have seen, the three tiers of the Museum contain such artifacts as the country’s first national flag, historic household furniture and utensils, historic photographs and cartographical resources.
Before the civil war, this building housed more than 5000 artifacts portraying over 200 years of national and regional history. The building itself came under attack during the different rounds of fighting in Monrovia. Today, there are items in here which offer an insight into the civil war itself, to remind of us the dark days to which we must not return.
Liberia is endowed with a rich culture. The government is committed to restoring the heritage that withered during course of the conflict. We are grateful in this regard to our partners, including UNESCO, UNWTO and the U.S. government, for their immeasurable contributions. Liberia is an early signatory to UNESCO’s cultural convention on the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage.
This is cardinal to our new development agenda, which emphasizes investing in the Liberian people by giving them “power” . As one of our icons aptly puts it, “there can be no strong sense of nationalism where a strong sense of cultural identity and appreciation are lacking”. So as it is enshrined in our constitution, the Liberia government under the leadership of President George M. Weah intends to preserve, protect and promote a positive Liberian culture by ensuring that traditional values – which are compatible with public policy and national progress – are adopted and developed while harmful practices are dispensed with.
But while we highlight the bold new vision of President Weah to holistically remold our sense of pride in our identity, we must also recognize the contributions made by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in ensuring the restoration the National Museum from decay to its current status – even as that quest to elevate it to higher standards still remains elusive. The war and the attendent carnage defaced this already archaic structure. Her administration took targeted steps at making this place what it once was. I saw this from a unique vantage point, as the same Minister who occupied the post at the time.
I also want to extend special thanks to the revered American curator Carole Alexander and all others who worked tirelessly to reorganize this place.
The building has served many purposes since its construction more than a century ago. It’s been used by all our three branches of government, including as our national legislature, government office and even as a school.
As it is with Museums around the world, the primary goal here is to protect and display cultural items which depict the country’s heritage. Most of the people you see here today – the ones who are often behind the scene – are our true heroes. They’ve toiled and sweat, often under grueling conditions, to ensure the Liberian story isn’t lost to time.