Western Sudan Community Museum Project
The Western Sudan Community Museum Project focuses on three museums that represent the shared history and culture of the Western Sudan: the Khalifa House and Bramble House in Omdurman, Khartoum; the Sheikan Museum, El Obeid, North Kordofan, and the Darfur Museum, Nyala, South Darfur. The project aims to help NCAM together with the local communities safeguard the museum collections and enhance the three museums as enclaves for community use and education in order to protect local and Sudanese heritage and identity and enable the sharing of cultural experiences that promote peaceful relations within the complex societies of modern Sudan.
The project is designed to work at multiple levels of capacity building including the restoration of historic building fabric, conservation management, the development of new facilities, displays and media archives, engagement with local communities and educational initiatives, and the development of sustainable management strategies. This is being accomplished through hands-on training workshops and specialist support for both the capital aspects of the project and the associated activities. The project re-opened the abandoned Darfur museum after 10 years of conflict with a major research project with the Universities of Nyala and Khartoum for the first time of the intangible heritage of all 5 Darfur states, that despite the covid crisis was completed and presented in the renewed Darfur museum buildings in February 2021.
The three museums are part of Sudan's national network of museums developed in the aftermath of the UNESCO Nubia campaign to save the monuments threatened by the building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, and enriched by many archaeological missions since. The museums in El Obeid and Nyala have beautiful collections of archaeological remains that illustrate Sudan's ancient heritage. In addition, together with the Khalifa House – a historic monument in its own right – they also contain objects that recall the events that created modern Sudan as an independent state during the transitions between Ottoman and Anglo-Egyptian rule. This history reflects the rich diversity of the hundreds of cultural groups caught up in the 'Great Migrations' from the west to Omdurman that started in the nineteenth century, the consequent settled populations, and the recent influx of refugees from conflict that have swelled the cities of Omdurman, El Obeid and Nyala. Though fragmented by conflict, the cultural inheritance of Western Sudan is still tangible and cause for celebration.
The three Community Museums had soft openings in late 2020, with exciting exhibitions on the Darfur Intangible Heritage Survey in Nyala, Wedding and Community Exhibitions in El Obeid's new Community Heritage Gallery, and the opening of the Bramble House Omdurman Community Centre in Omdurman.
This success of the project has led in 202 - 22 to the start of another three phases of work:
a) Phase II British Council works that funded a flood wall to protect Nyala Museum against climate change flooding, build an education centre to expand the community programmes in El Obeid Museum, and finally to build a community tent in Khalifa House museum for education and community programmes, as well as fund further conservation workshops.
b) Aliph Fund major grant towards the security and exhibition works funding 60 state of the art museum cases to house and protect the historic and archaeological collections and improve the security, and complete the strengthening of the historic buildings from the disastrous climate change rains in 2021, and assisted the completion of the services in all three musuems.
c) An innovative Green Heritage Programme for education in all three museums funded by the British Council that raised the issues of the effect of climate change on the communities in Sudan and its effect on the tangible and intangible heritage. The programme included a study of the impact of climate change on the intangible culture of nomads in Kordofan, and a major survey of the monuments of Darfur to assess the impact of climate change on Darfur's heritage by NCAM and the University of Nyala Darfur Heritage Department, which covered 180 km and recorded 12 major heritage sites in the Furnung, Tagabo, Meidob Hills.
The WSCM Project has received three major Grants from the British Council's Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, established to protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa and One major grant from the Aliph Foundation - The International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas. The five project partners are NCAM (Sudan's National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums), the British Institute in Eastern Africa (current grant managers), ICCROM Sharjah (Phase I grant managers), Mallinson Architects, and Cambridge University Macdonald Archaeological Institute Heritage Centre.