Museu Local: A Museum in Mozambique

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This is a 4:46 excerpt from SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, May 12, 2008.

An archeologist from Canada is working to establish a museum in Mozambique.  The museum will have the traditional purpose of showing valuable objects from the past.  But another purpose is to keep ancient African objects in Africa.  That goal goes against a long history of foreign archeologists digging up such objects and taking them home for permanent showing.

The new museum in Mozambique will open officially in August.  It is called Museu Local.  The name means local museum in the Portuguese language.

The creator of this unusual project is Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary in Canada's Alberta Province.  He has been leading archeological digs in Mozambique for about five years. 

Museu Local will be only the second museum in Mozambique's Niassa Province.  Julio Mercader decided to build it after finding a cave overlooking Lake Niassa in two thousand three.  He recognized the area's richness for ancient objects when he found one-thousand-year-old ceremonial containers in the area.

Mr. Mercader chose an historic building for the museum's home.  The building had been the first schoolhouse in the area of Lago.  As such, it already held special meaning for the local population.

Last year, Mr. Mercader led his team in collecting stories from twenty-five nearby villages.  Team members recorded the spoken tradition and personal histories of more than two hundred people.  They also recorded the people's memories of their travels, stories and songs.  Sixty-five hours of sound and video recordings already are available for museum visitors.

One member of the team is Arianna Fogelman, a graduate student at Boston University in the United States.  She has spent three summers collecting the spoken histories.  She worked along a one hundred-fifty-kilometer long area on the coast of Lake Niassa.

Ms. Fogelman says she is satisfied to see the looks on people's faces when they hear recordings of their stories and songs.  She plans to return soon for another summer.

In addition to building the museum, Julio Mercader has provided chances for local people to help with his project.  The archeologist teaches as he works on excavations, or digs.  He also offers classes and training in laboratory methods.

Mussa Raja is an aide to Mr. Mercader.  Mr. Raja has been taking archeology courses in a school in Mozambique and at the University of Calgary.  He says Mozambique needs more experts in the archeology of Stone Age times, when stone tools were first used.

Mr. Mercader worked with two universities in Mozambique to help establish Museu Local.  The museum employs local workers.  The United States has given thirty-five thousand dollars to support the project.

You are listening to the VOA Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS.  With Bob Doughty, I'm Barbara Klein in Washington.