Are you one of those who believe that Tanzania is only about safari, wildlife and tribal dances? If yes, the National Museum of Tanzania will definitely shatter this preconception.
Unlike other cultural institutions of its kind, the National Museum of Tanzania is actually a consortium reuniting five Tanzanian museums, whose main aim is to preserve and raise awareness about the history, flora and fauna, but above all about the lifestyle and traditions of the Tanzanian people.
The National Museum of Dar es Salaam marked the beginning of this museum consortium, in 1934, the year of its establishment. The museum started at the initiative of Harold MacMichael, Tanganyika governor, four other museums joined years later. These were the Village Museum in Dar es Salaam, the National History Museum, the Arusha Declaration Museum, and the Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere Memorial Museum (Nyerere Museum) located in Butiama.
Established in 1934 but only open to the public in 1940, the Dar es Salaam National Museum is located in Shaban Robert Street, in the vicinity of the botanical gardens, allowing you to hop across for a walk among luxuriant plants. It was initially dedicated to the memory of King George V - one of the king’s automobiles is still on display.
In 1963 Dar es Salaam Museum was expanded, a new building being added to the initial construction. Now it exhibits historical items, including the relics of Paranthropus boisei unearthed by Louis Leakey at Olduvai together with other remnants.
A large section of the museum is dedicated to the Shirazi city-state of Kilwa. Numerous historical items are related to the German and British colonial times, and ancient Chinese pottery. There are also numerous ethnographic items on display.
The Village Museum (described in a previous post) was established in 1967 and represents a collection of traditional Tanzanian dwellings, furniture items, stools, pots and tools pertaining to various Tanzanian ethnic groups. Showcases of traditional cultivations, traditional music and dance performances are held daily.
The next museum in the group of five is the National Natural History Museum in Arusha. Open since 1987, it hosts two permanent exhibitions dedicated to human evolution and entomology, respectively.
If you’re a historian, the Arusha Declaration Museum is must see. Open to visitors since 1977, the museum located in Kaloleni Road, Arusha, displays historical documents dating back to colonial times, the independence war and, of course, the Arusha Declaration , document giving name to the museum, which outlines the political vision of the first Tanzanian president, Juliu Nyerere.
Finally, the Nyerere Museum established in 1999 is a memorial of Julius Nyerere, being the place where the first president of the African country was born and buried. The museum’s collection includes items related to Nyerere’s private and political life