Kitale Museum is of particular importance as it was the first of the inland museums to be developed in the country. Initially named the Stoneham Museum, in honour of an amateur naturalist who lived in Kitale, Lieutenant colonel Hugh Stoneham, the museum started off with a collection of insects and other animal specimens and books from 1894, when Stoneham was only 5 years old. The naturalist continued to add items to his collection until the year he died, 1966. The first museum curator was Linda Donley, a peace Corp volunteer, in 1974.
Stepping back in history a little, the museum was founded as a private entity in 1926 and later on the collections as well as funds laid the basis of a new museum to the people of Kenya. A new building was erected on an area stretching out on five acres of land in the outskirts of Kitale town. Eventually in December 1974, the National Museums of Western Kenya was opened and was the first regional museum to be part of the Kenya Museum Society.
Renamed after the location, the Kitale Museum added a lot to its collections over the years, and now, apart from Stoneham’s collections, it boasts an impressive number of ethnological materials gathered from surrounding ethnic groups.
Furthermore, the museum has an environment conservation policy in place. It has a nature trail since 1977, which was soon followed by the Olof Palme Memorial Agroforestry Centre, started in 1983. The main focus of the centre was to support agroforestry in West Pokot district.
The building of the trail involved building bridges and cutting steep sides into the stream bank to create space for the trail to run through.
After that, between July 1974 and June 1975 a massive period of material acquisition followed to put together the museum’s exhibits. A few years later, the efforts were followed by results. In 1987, Kitale Museum acquired 30 acres of natural riverine forest, which made a perfect home for numerous plant species and wild animals that the museum strived to conserve.
Among the extensive collections on the museum’s display, noteworthy is Col. Stoneham’s Lepidoptera collection, along with other animal and plant specimens from Western Kenya, which if you’re a scientist, you can actually enjoy studying, given the diligent manner the exhibits have been handled with and maintained. Additionally, the Education Department of Kitale Museum also organises lectures and film projections for secondary school and college students introducing them into the mysteries and preservation of wildlife and Kenyan traditions and culture.