Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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HIRUY Daniel Tefera, Jinka University, Ethiopia

Today, in an era where development issues have taken center stage in justifying government policies and in measuring the values of institutions, it has become fashionable to rationalize the maintenance of cultural institutions such as museums by articulating its social and economic benefits. In developed countries, governments are building and expanding museums for hosting blockbuster exhibition and cultural events not just for the traditional reasons like the preservation of collections and scientific research, but most importantly to rebrand and rejuvenate cities and regions thereby attracting tourists searching for compelling destinations and businesses hoping to cash in from the vibe. At the same time museums are engaging the community they serve by entering in the domain of civil society and spawning social capital and goodwill. When we come to Ethiopia, over the last 70 years, museums were established at the national and regional level for the main purpose of collecting and preserving artifacts and ecofacts deemed to have scientific value as well as being representative of the people and of the land. With the introduction of federal form of government in the 1990s, the country has recently experienced an increase in the number of museums as regions vie to establish museums that represent their identity and culture. Nevertheless after the hoopla, excitement and commotion surrounding their establishments, many of the museums face difficulties in sustaining their existence as they are established without much reflection on functionality, governance and secured source of funds. Apart from representing the regional/national identities in museum spaces, the cultural institution, with some exceptions, have very little role in mobilizing the communities' cultural creativities and utilizing culture towards poverty alleviation, social progress, and sustainable development. This paper presents a critical overview of how past and current government policies have shaped the mission and governance of museums in Ethiopia. It explores the economic role that museums in the future could play provided there is supportive policy as well as appropriate management and governance system.