The Museum was started in 1910 by the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society as a place for British colonial scientists and naturalists to store, study, and conserve collections and specimens. When Kenya gained independence in 1963, the institution became the National Museum of Kenya and has since expanded to manage 19 Museums across Kenya as well as several research and development programs, and other sites and monuments that preserve Kenya’s natural and cultural heritage.
In the late 90s the Museum received funding to overhaul its buildings and programming to become a “world-class tourist destination.”
Much like the Penn Museum, the Nairobi National Museum is rebuilding itself as a public institution with enhanced public programs and even a new brand identity that they proudly tout on their website: “The new identity positions NMK as a ‘Custodian of heritage’ with the following brand values: Authentic, reliable, unifying, caring and authoritative.”
Louis Leakey, husband of Mary Leakey, founded the Primate Research Institute at the Museum in 1960 to study human evolution and the conservation and welfare of East African Primates. It even has a breeding center with 270 primates. If only I could convince the Penn Museum to undertake such a task.
Richard Leakey, an Paleontologist who followed in his parents’ footsteps, is now Director at the National Museum. He found the first Australopithecus skull.
He also blogs about conservation issues.
The NMK also has the honor of being one of very few museums with a ceolacanth in their collections. This ceolacanth was netted by a fishing trawler off the Kenyan coast in 2001. It was kept frozen until transported to the museum on ice. It weighed 77 kg (170 pounds) and is 1.7 meters (67 inches) long.
I know this will make my Museum colleagues jealous. The NMK not only has parking, but they have extra parking. Although, as the Penn Museum overhauls its exterior signage, I don’t think we’ll be needing “no firearms” signs.