Trainee Curators From Sierra Leone Pick Up Tips From UK Museums

By David Prudames | 22 June 2005
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Shows a photograph taken from above, looking down at the exhibition hall at the National Railway Museum. At the centre of the image there are two huge engines, blue to the left and red to the right, while in the background there are various other displays including smaller trains and parts of old train stations.

The National Railway Museum at York will be the curators' base during their visit to the UK. © National Railway Museum.

Museum workers from Sierra Leone have arrived in the UK to learn curatorial skills at the National Railway Museum and Hull City Museums.

Ibrahim Kuyateh, 19, Daniel Mattia, 25, and Mohamed Jabbie, 29, will get experience of world-class collections care and visitor services before taking over the newly-opened Sierra Leone National Railway Museum in Freetown.

Funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government's Africa Initiative, the training has been arranged by the National Railway Museum in York in partnership with Hull City Museums.

"Africa is a priority and museums have an important role to play in the rebuilding of a civil society and in contributing to the development of the tourist infrastructure," explained the culture minister.

Shows a photograph of David Lammy, gesticulating, in mid-speech.

The three individuals arrived on June 21 and met with the new Culture Minister, David Lammy. © 24 Hour Museum.

"By providing training through the National Railway Museum in partnership with Hull City Museums we are helping to ensure the sustainability of a museum that will provide a significant element in the developing tourist industry of Sierra Leone."

Together with 15 young, unemployed Sierra Leoneans, the museum was established by Colonel Steve Davies MBE, Deputy Commander of the International Military Advisory Training Team in Sierra Leone.

With the backing of a number of sponsors, including the British Council and the DCMS, a shed of locomotives abandoned since abolition of the State railway in 1974 has been transformed. Among its exhibits is a coach built for the state visit of HM The Queen in 1961.

"The project to establish a Sierra Leone National Railway Museum has captured the imagination of both that generation of Sierra Leoneans who remember the old railway with great fondness, and also the Country's youth who by and large have never seen a train before," said Colonel Davies.

Shows a photograph of a locomotive, steaming along on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Part of the visit will include a trip to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

"As Sierra Leone emerges from the dark days of the recent past, what better way to demonstrate her emerging confidence and return to normality than by proudly displaying her heritage on the world stage in the form of her priceless and irreplaceable railway collection."

During their visit the trainee curators will experience working steam engines for the first time at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. While there they’ll have a chance to learn more about conservation techniques, before going on to Hull, Freetown’s twin city, for a visit to the birthplace of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

They’ll also get to see the Welsh Highland Railway, Ffestiniog Railway and the Llanfair and Welshpool Light Railway, which has a working example of a former Sierra Leone Railway locomotive.

Before it closed the Sierra Leone railway consisted of a 250-mile network of 2'6" gauge track. The new museum, which opened in March 2005, has the personal backing of Sierra Leone's President Kabbah and has received thousands of visitors.

Shows a photograph of the Wilberforce House Museum.

Wilberforce House is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, Hull MP and slavery abolishionist whose campaign made the establishment of Freetown possible. Courtesy Hull City Council Museum Service

"It's difficult for us to imagine the impact of this new initiative in a country which is emerging from a long period of unrest and which has no railway system and few public museums," said Andrew Scott, Head of the National Railway Museum.

"In that sense, although the museum uses objects that have survived from the past, it looks very much forward to a future that involves a peaceful existence, with continuing stability and where the museum can play a real role in education, tourism and redeveloping a sense of community. We hope that the programme based here in York can help the team sustain the museum development for Sierra Leone's future."

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