If your kids have never been to a museum in Nigeria, then you’re lowkey a mean parent. Just kidding, but why are your kids yet to visit the museums? ***insert rolling eyes emoji

Museums in Nigeria rarely get a lot of attention, but museums have several things to teach you and young children. Moreover, they’re an excellent tourist spot – I like to think that a true tourist has been to at least one museum in their lifetime.

However, many parents often leave the job of taking their children to museums to schools. If children should go to museums, a school field trip (or excursion) is undoubtedly in order. School museum trips are fun and help create fun memories and strengthen the relationship within a class, but this can also work for your family.

So what exactly is a museum – is it a building that houses artefacts or something more?

Museums and types of museums

According to Collins Dictionary, a museum is a building where a large number of interesting and valuable objects, such as works of art or historical items, are kept, studied, and displayed to the public.

A museum isn’t always some huge old building with a very traditional design. It can be relatively modern and creatively designed as well.

There are different types of museums, and a few are:

  • History museums: These are perhaps what most people understand by the word “museum” – these types of museums display historical objects such as artefacts, antiques, documents, and archaeological findings. They often tell the story of a group of people chronologically. An example of this is the (first exhibit of the) Benin National Museum in Benin city.
  • Archeology museums: Archeology museums display archeological artefacts or items in a building. The items displayed do not have to tell a chronological story.
  • Art museums: Art museums are often mixed up with art galleries, and the truth is, they’re not quite the same. When people visit an art gallery, they do so with the hope of buying the art, not just viewing it. However, in some places, art museums and art galleries are used synonymously.
  • Historic house museums: When a house is converted to a museum, it’s usually because something significant happened in that building. There are usually guides that tell the story of such museums.
  • Children museums: As the name says, it’s a museum specifically designed to appeal to children and families. 

What are the benefits of visiting museums?

1. Museums are exciting

From someone who’s been to the very same museum four times with different groups, museums are one hell of a treat. Museums excite me, and when I drag non-museum goers to a museum, they too get excited and inspired.

If you’re not sure a trip to the museum will excite your child(ren), it’s still worth giving a try. Take them to one and get excited. They won’t forget this meaningful experience in a hurry.

PS: I was about 9 or 10 when I had my first trip to the museum, and yes, it was a school trip. 

2. It helps the child explore the past lives of others – it’s history

History can sometimes come off as an uninteresting subject filled with dates and names, but never in a museum. A museum makes history sound so much exciting and relatable. It’s storytelling at its best, and children love a good story – this is why you should ask for a curator!

When children visit museums, it encourages their love of history. And here are some reasons why we need historical museums:

Reasons why children should be taught history

3. It’s an informal learning environment

According to Joseloff Gallery, museums are informal learning environments with resources that promote informal education. The process of informal education helps children to develop values, knowledge, and skills like critical thinking.

Also, museums are an ideal place to share informative and educating stories. Lest I forget, children museums create an interactive session that teaches kids creatively.

4. It’s a fine way to spend quality time with the family

It’s a perfect opportunity to add to your family’s list of shared positive experiences. Family bonds are strengthened when the museum in question is children friendly.

5. It familiarizes the audience with a people/country’s history or a specific subject area

One way to know more about a group of people or a country is to check out their museum. A trip to the Benin museum (plus a good curator) exposes bits about the Edo people and their culture.

There are museums dedicated to specific subject areas, for example, a museum on the slave trade like the Calabar slave history museum.

How can you make museum trips fun for kids?

Planning a museum trip isn’t as easy as it might look. First of all, there are different kinds of museums available these days. Some museums focus on specific topics like photography and those with various exhibits, but most importantly, children’s museums are designed specifically for your little ones as well.

Regardless of what type of museum it is, here are a few things to help make the experience truly exciting for your kids:

  1. Involve them in the planning process. Pick a museum that your child is enthusiastic about visiting. Don’t pick one that appeals to just you, and let them know beforehand the features of the chosen museum.
  2. Request for a curator/tour guide: A curator makes for a more interactive session, and they know all there is to the museum
  3. Don’t try to stuff your child’s brain with way too much knowledge at a go. For museums with more than one exhibit, it’s a great idea to focus on just one. You can ask the curator to help pick the most exciting exhibit for families. Should you ditch the other displays? No, let your kids explore the others as well but remember, the focus is on one.
  4. Discuss the museum trip with your children. Let them share their experiences with you.

Must-visit museums in Nigeria

There are different types of museums in Nigeria; yes, Nigeria isn’t home only to history museums. However, there are not enough when it comes to the other types. There are children’s museums and even art museums in Nigeria.

Here are some of the bests to visit with children:

1. Mindscape Museum, Lagos

Mindscape museum is a children museum in Lagos with different exhibits. The museum has diverse exhibitions, programs, and creative spaces designed to educate, inspire, and leave children in awe.

The environment is an informal learning space that stimulates the brain and helps your little one explore, discover, and learn about different subjects. Some of their exhibits include the Book Nook, The Bistro, Balogun Market, and Kolo Bank.

2. Benin National Museum, Benin City

It’s one of the National Museum in Nigeria and is located in the most obvious of all places – it’s right in the middle of the city. However, many except you do not know that there’s a museum there.

It’s a history museum with three exhibitions. The first exhibition, Oba Akenzua Gallery, tells the history of the Benin/Edo people in chronological order. The other exhibitions include a photography exhibition and the Unity Gallery, which features artefacts from across Nigeria.

Note: Keep an eye out for Queen Idia’s bronze head. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop and get some souvenirs.

3. Calabar Museum

If you can’t think of an excellent way to approach the slave trade topic, here’s a good way. Take your child to the Calabar museum and have them see a few things for themselves and have them share their thoughts or ask any question they might have.

Hint: Before starting the conversation, please arm yourself with enough knowledge about the slave trade era.

4. Nigeria National Museum, Lagos

Founded in 1957, the museum is known for its wide variety and collection of arts from all over Nigeria. The museum has different galleries, including those dedicated to brasses from Nok terracotta and Benin city.

5. Kaduna National Museum, Kaduna

Home to a variety of arts and crafts, the Kaduna national museum is here to captivate you. It has art pieces from the Igbo-ukwu civilization and the Nok tribe.

Other museums to see in Nigeria include:

  • Odu’a museum and hall of fame
  • Esie museum
  • Oron museum
  • Jos museum
  • National war museum, Abia.

Final words

Taking your children to the museum never goes out of fashion. It’s exciting, memorable, and educating. Museums in Nigeria are screaming that you bring your little ones to say hi to them. What’s stopping you?

Suppose you have no idea where to take your children during the holiday, start with a museum trip. Let them have a little fun, learn a little history, and expose themselves to other cultures as well.

Naga Odigie

When I'm not obsessing about the wonders and dynamics of the human brain, I'm a secondary caregiver and a biomedical scientist roaming the city of Benin.