22-January-2018

Sudan Natural History Museum: A Site for Educational and Cultural Attraction

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (Sudanow.info.sd) - For a century and despite limited resources yet Sudan Natural Museum continues its mission in preserving Sudan natural history heritage and providing students and tourists with required information in this field. Sudanow interviewed Dr. Abul-Gasim Ibrahim Abdul-Halim the Director of the Museum in order to identify the museum collections, efforts to fulfill its future visions. Following are excerpts of this interview:

Q: Dr. Abul-Gasim, when did the museum start?
A: Unofficial starting of the museum was in 1902 in Gordon Memorial College and many of the museum belongings were collected by means of individual efforts from different places in the country. In 1958 the museum was annexed to the University of Khartoum where it occupied the old Students Union building after it was renewed and the museum collections transformed to it. In 1968 a park for living reptiles was established which is still there and it included wild turtles, pythons, reserve for snakes, and so many reptiles’ cages and pond for crocodiles included two crocodiles and that just to give an adequate image for the varieties of animals in Sudan.

Q: What is the current situation of the museum in term of the environment and the displayed objects?
A: The museum is full of different kinds of rare living reptiles, snakes including two kinds of Cobra and pythons, and crocodiles. The museum has display shelves that contain skulls, skeletons and aquatic animals. The museum includes a thousand birds of various colors and kinds, most of them are mummified and others are rare and some are considered as extinct. Also, the museum contains hundreds of dead and mummified animals, among them are hippopotamus and remains of African elephant, rhinoceros, wild buffaloes, amphibians, spiders and fish besides geology and botany departments and Sudan environments champers. Labels are used to explain animals classification for different categories of the museum’s visitors.

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Q: Whoever enters the museum will notice that the place is properly arranged, would you please tell us about this effort.
A: Interest in the museum started when Pro. Mustafa Idrees took charge of the University of Khartoum Administration as well as Dr. Sumia Abu Kashoa the former Dean of the Faculty of Science, this attention considered as an effective motive for all the staff in the museum. So they did their best to develop the museum environment which resulted in positive change in the infrastructure and the museum became within the last five years a site for educational and cultural attraction. It attracts tourists from inside and outside the country, and it restores its international scientific importance which makes it a pride for Sudan and the University of Khartoum.

Q: We noticed that you have determination to develop the museum despite lack of potentials, how can you go on under these situations?
A: The country can make use of the museum, its significance and belongings, so we have to pay more attention to the development of the museum notwithstanding the situation, we devote ourselves to develop it in collaboration with the museum family (administrators and staff) it is an important scientific edifice needs to be supported by means of providing the resources necessary and technical personnel in order to play its leading role in preserving the heritage of Sudan natural history. There is an idea of constructing new building for the museum as an expansion and it will be very important for developing the Sudan Natural History Museum and fulfills the requirements of scientific mobility to achieve what we aim at. We call upon the responsible institutions in the State to pay more attention to and allocate budget to the museum which in turn will provide perfect investment opportunities and contribute to tourism sector and the national economy.

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Q: Do the museum have any relations with similar institutions outside Sudan?
A: The museum has considerable activity in this field, it has given the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology - University of California a system for classifying the reptiles as a present. Also, the museum has hosted an American researcher, Dr. Theodor Johnson, who has conducted a scientific tour to Kassala and Red Sea states to collect species of reptiles and amphibians and acquainted a large number of students who accompanied him with the ways of collecting these creatures and keeping small parts of their tissues for current and future genetic studies. Dr. Theodor gave the museum a considerable number of scientific books to enrich the Museum Library addition to some important tools.

Q: What about the future visions of the museum?
A: The museum needs many facilities, in kind and material, to achieve its aims and keep up with the enormous progress in the field of documentation and knowledge. Currently the administration of the museum is seeking to increase the academic staff to cover its various departments. We work on training mummification technicians to enable them to use new technologies and to uplift their professional efficiency, besides activating contacts with national, regional and international counterpart institutions and providing an efficient means of transportation to be used in collecting scientific specimens for the museum. There are efforts to construct new building for the museum as it was mentioned above.

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Q: Last May you celebrated the International Museum Day under the theme “Museums and Cultural Landscapes” will you please explain this idea?
A: The idea of museum and cultural landscapes means the museums are responsible of the landscapes- geographic, historical, economic, social and cultural context – in which museums exist. The main mission of museums is to preserve the heritage of this context as well as providing the communities with a different view to the landscapes. The museums also are responsible for maintaining the environmental heritage. The museums can have a role and contribution in managing a place having respect for its environmental and cultural components.

Q: Finally, the museum is considered as a scientific, educational and entertainment edifice at the same time, to what extent the visitors are content with it?
A: The rehabilitation done by the museum administration within the available resources have contributed noticeably in increasing the number of visitors of the museum from inside and outside Sudan. Some 18,000 of school and university students, researchers and citizens have visited the museum during the year. The museum location became known to the people and they spent nice times in it particularly the kids and school and university students. Also, the scientific faculties of the universities have used the museum materials to execute some of their scientific studies. The museum provides an opportunity for amateurs and tourists to consider the diversity of Allah’s creation and His accuracy when they see the movement of the reptiles and birds as they respond to the visitors by hiding, appearing, flying or standing still, in a scene that gives relieve and joy to the soul. The picture is completed by the green area adorned with a beautiful fountain brought recently.

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Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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