In a recent interview with Dr. Raphael James, the visionary behind Nigeria’s Best history and Photo museum (CRIMMD Museum) by Patrick Wisdom from ATQNews/Travellers TV, sheds light on the museum’s inception and its unique focus on preserving and promoting the lesser-known facets of Nigerian history.
Despite the challenges faced during a time when history was less emphasized, Dr. James embarked on the creation of the museum to document and showcase the country’s rich history through an extensive collection of over 50,000 photos and historical artefacts.
The museum not only serves as a repository of historical knowledge but actively engages in educational initiatives, school excursions, and collaborations to bridge the knowledge gap and instil a sense of historical consciousness in both local and international audiences.
1) Can you share the inspiration behind establishing the CRIMMD Museum and its unique focus on Nigerian photo history, particularly the lesser-known aspects such as the Berlin Conference and slave trades?
CRIMMD museum of Nigeria history is a child of necessity, at the point when history was banned in Nigeria, a time when everyone was trying to shy away from history, that was when I started it all, it was initially a photo museum but today its beyond photo, we have historical artefacts like you may never find anywhere else. I was inspired to document our history for generations yet to be born. We have photos and our over 50, 000 photos all have a story behind them.
The berlin West Africa conference, the photos of the conference, documents from the conference and even cartoons depicting events of the conference. For the slave trade era, we have photos, books and relics from the slave trade and on my own, in-order to boost my collection, I have visited about 6 slave trade museums within West Africa.
2) With a vast collection of over 35,000 photographs, how do you curate and preserve these historical images? What challenges and successes have you encountered in maintaining such an extensive archive?
Our photo collections are about 50, 000 presently, we have them in soft copies and few thousands of copies in hard copies. The soft copies are in hard drives and are shared in so many places and homes even beyond my museum for preservations and protections. Most of the hard copies maybe because our place is small in size, they are being affected by humid, but we are doing all to keep them protected. My challenge from day one has been space, we have materials that will occupy over 10 rooms all squeezed in one room.
We keep praying that someday, someone who values history who is not thinking of how much he or she wants to make as in cash will visit us and move us to somewhere bigger and better located to more access to the public. In terms of success, I must tell you that for us every new day is a success story to us. There is no day that we don’t add a new item to the museum, we have books, magazines, newspapers, presently if you have 10 books on a list from the 40’s to 80’s you must at least get 3 or more from us. All the great Nigerian authors that formed the African series are with us. All magazines published in Nigeria from the 1970’s even some from 1930’s too. Our archives of old magazines should be among the richest in Nigeria.
We have Nigeria currencies from 1910, and I can tell you in good authority, with the exception of the CBN Museum, I don’t think any other museum in Nigeria can compete with us on the preservation of Nigeria currencies.
3) The museum covers significant historical events, including the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 and expeditions of figures like Mungo Park and Richard Landers. How do these exhibits contribute to a better understanding of Nigeria’s history, and what impact do you hope they have on visitors?
In our museum we make history come alive, that is the difference between us and others, from the moment you walk into our museum, your eyeballs pop up wide because you will see most of the things and people you probably have read about long time again. Kids learn faster with photos, but we do more than photos, when you walk in you see photos that are alive, you see objects that you can relate with and that way the memories stays long.
4) Nigeria has a rich history, yet some aspects remain unfamiliar to many people. How does the CRIMMD Museum aim to bridge this knowledge gap and educate the public about lesser-known histories?
This is what Nigerians are known for, we don’t just swallow hook and sinkers, when we are told a story or we read about it in history books, we go the extra miles to confirm it and if there are loopholes in the original story, we dig deep to uncover the irregularities.
The results you can find in our Amalgamation story. We remain an authority in it, we are the first institution in Nigeria that have been able to prove that the Nigeria 1914 amalgamation was in London and not in Nigeria and it was on November 22, 1913 and not 1914. We have our facts and we stand by them. Our research work on the Aba women riot of 1929 is impeccable, the very best so far. Our research work on Bishop Ajayi Crowther and even Olabisi Ajala remains outstanding, in fact our Ajala work earned us a standing ovation in Dubai and some powerful commendations.
5) In what ways has the museum contributed to shaping Nigeria’s identity and fostering a sense of historical consciousness among its visitors? Can you share any anecdotes or stories that highlight the impact of the museum on individuals or the community?
Oh, there so many, a serving member of the House of Representative, Honourable Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo of the Federal Representative House of Rep. representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North and South Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives in Nigeria flew in from Abuja to our centre and we educated him on the Nigerian flag and the wrong flag that is everywhere presently, the flag with a coat of arms, he went back to Abuja and presented a bill for the adoption of the use of the right flag, based on our lecture to him. Our library section in 2019 built a Christmas Tree standing at 12.2 feet tall, built with 5, 073 books, tallest Christmas book tree in the world. Our Museum discovered the designer of the Nigerian Coat of Arms, 60 years after Nigeria’s Independence – Messrs Beverly Pick and Associated of 118 Charing Cross Road, United Kingdom.
We also unravelled the spot where Gen Aguiyi-Ironsi and Adekunle Fajuyi were killed and we called on the Oyo State government and today there is a sign post there, though we were never acknowledged, we worry not. We also called on the Nigeria government for the identification of the spot the Nigerian flag was first hosted and many others.
6) Nigeria has immense tourism potential. How does the CRIMMD Museum actively participate in promoting tourism, both locally and internationally? Are there collaborations or initiatives in place to attract a diverse audience?
We are open to tourist and so far we have received tourist from the international communities, Germany, USA, UK India and Africa. Also, the museum project motivated me to visit all the states in Nigeria and I documented over 550 tourist sites. We have been getting full time and part time partnership from across the world too. We are a member of the Arab Culture and Arts Network, we are presently among the six-museum selected from across Nigeria working with the Gothe Institute in their ‘Connecting the Dots’ program. In 2019/2020 we worked with a representative from the British Museum on project ‘Museum without Boundaries’.
7) Preserving history is crucial for future generations. Could you discuss the museum’s initiatives or plans for educational programs, partnerships, or outreach efforts aimed at schools and institutions to ensure the continuity of historical awareness and appreciation in Nigeria?
We are open to school’s excursions and we have been having schools visit us, from primary schools to Higher institutions, we teach history in such a way that you will want to visit us again and again. We also go out of our comfort zones, to teach history. We hold exhibitions that are both historical and educational.
By Patrick Wisdom