Museum & Galleries

National Museum Lagos

Nigeria / Africa

The Nigerian National Museum is a national museum of Nigeria, located in Lagos.  It holds a notable collection of Nigerian art, including pieces of statuary and carvings and archaeological and ethnographic exhibits.  One notable exhibit is a terracotta human head known as the Jemaa Head (c. 900 to 200 BC), part of the Nok culture.  The piece is named after Jema’a, the village where it was uncovered.  The museum is administered by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.  In July 1948 the first architectural sketches of the museum were submitted to a conference on museum policy in Nigeria.  The museum was founded in 1957 by the English archaeologist Kenneth Murray (1903-1972). He had arrived in Nigeria in 1927 and initially worked as an art teacher. One of his students was the prolific and renowned artist Ben Enwonwu. He soon became Nigeria’s first surveyor of antiquities, The purpose was to preserve different historical artefacts of Nigeria.  Murray had collected several traditional masks from Cross River State which were displayed in the museum.  

Amongst the rotating exhibits are the Benin Ivories and bronzes, the Ife Bronzes and terracotta and the Nok Terracotta including works which date back to between 900 and 200 BC. 

During the first decade of the museum’s existence, the British Museum gave the Nigerian National Museum two plaques and other artefacts.  In 2018 a virtual tour of the museum was added using an adapted version of Google Street View along with other tourist sites in Nigeria.  Smiling schoolchildren are often to be found there, armed with paper and pencils, keen to share their own stories of how the nation has evolved.

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