Sudan Military Museum- the Existing Reality and Future Vision- A Scientific Paper

Thu, 19 Oct 2017

                                                                                Hatem al_seddig mohamed ahmed

   Museums have many important and significant roles in societies, being the institutions fostering specific cultural concepts, which are of high value to the citizen. In addition, conserving heritage and displaying its collection in an attractive way, the role of Sudan Military Museum is almost as important as that of similar museums, since it satisfies the public mind set by portraying the glorious history of the armed forces by exhibiting the military possessions collected from various military units, and displaying them in the most artistic way to attract viewers. The Museum has developed into a major destination for visitors, foreign delegations, students, researchers, and writers. It is the reservoir of an array of valuable documents and old military transcripts, which have been classified and kept inside the Museum’s records section.
The study concludes that Sudan Military Museum has the message of educating the new generations, through lectures, demonstrations, and the participation in exhibitions, which have evolved into educational platforms having positive effects on students, academics, and researchers. It also concludes that the Museum has undergone a process of continued development based on visionary scientific and professional strategies that will take it into a bright future.
    The museums, development, and functions
    The Museums, the Establishment and Development
    The Military Museum, the Establishment and Development
    Duties of the Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Unit:

It goes beyond doubt that history is the living memory of humans; nations without history are identical to a human being without a brain. Military history is an integral part of the history of Sudan. The Military Museum is the reservoir that conserves the collections of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and its glorious history emanating from the past of the ancestors’ sacrifices, gallantry, and heroism. It further utilizes the lessons of history, promotes the relations between the Armed Forces and the citizens, and reminds them of the essentiality of national effort to defend the motherland.
Hence, there was a need to an effort to establish a strong organization that work for the establishment of a Sudanese military museum, equipped with qualified cadres, and the military equipment that reflect its guidance objectives. The creation of the Military Museum has realized an objective sought by the Sudanese Army since the early days of its formation, and endeavoured to achieve it in many ways, aiming at the creation of a large institution capable of containing and conserving Sudanese military antiquities scattered in old military locations (the Eastern, Western, Northern, Equatorial units, and Khartoum Garrison), as well as the Weapons, Signals, Music, Engineering, and Transport corps, so that the public might come to enjoy watching their military history inside the museum, or through the media.
The Objectives of the Study:
- Finding a scientific approach to the functions, duties, and roles of the Military Museum
- Providing an environment conducive to museum tourism
- Exposing the military heritage, and disseminating military museum’s culture
- Understanding the concepts of exhibiting military heritage
The Problems:
The dissemination and conveyance of military museums culture to the public, in order to persuade them to visit military museums, which portray the national military heritage
Study Questions:
The study responds to the following questions:
What is the social message of museums?
What are the roles and duties of the Military Museum?
What is the authority responsible for the Military Museum?
What type of organization is adopted in the Military Museum?
What are the futuristic visions for the Military Museum?
The Museums, Development, and Functions:
The concept and definition:
There is a degree of agreement among those who attempted to define the word “museum”, though with slight differences. There is a high level of agreement on the basic concept and functions of the word. The word museum denotes building housing groups of art works with access to people for viewing, study, and entertainment. Yet, another definition is that it is a building in which artifacts and antiquities {1} are conserved. Exhibits may be collected from various parts of the world, and conserved under its roof. Such exhibits may be scattered, belong to different places, and date back to different times, but collected in one institution for viewing. The museum is also the place in which humanity’s valuable objects, from the dawn of history until the present time are collected. Such objects may be artistic, military, or even items used for personal purposes in daily life. This place is open for the public, who visit it for entertainment, research and study, and to get familiarized with human values reflected in human creativity through the ages. All these definitions are centred on the building, or the museum especially designed to match the nature of the exhibits and items it contains. Such items and exhibits are from different places and times, of different forms, types, and size, which are tuned inside the museum to form a homogeneous unit, with different conceptualizations and objectives. (Germaine Bazine) defines the museum as “a temple in which time stopped, in other words every exhibits lives within its own temporary surroundings”. A museum in the English language is synonymous with the place where the show takes place, or the “hall” {1} where books, large coloured paintings, and sculptures (artistic works) are displayed; the word “museum” was added to describe the rooms in which artistic masterpieces are kept. By the eighteenth century, the word was used to mean the institute designed to conserve and exhibit objects, and which is open for the public; and by late eighteenth century, the word meant the place that preserves objects related to the cultural heritage. The Arabic Languages defines the word “museum” as the place where valuable masterpieces, whose value is on the increase by time, are kept. Arab researchers define the “museum” as the permanent, nonprofit institution that educates and entertains the public, which employs professionals who work together to preserve the objects, exhibit what they think suitable for public viewing, and which is open for the public, according to a specific programme. This institution tasks some of its employees to look after the proper maintenance of the objects {1}
The International Council of Museums (ICOM), and in according to clause (2) item (1) of its Statute, defines the museum as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”  In addition to the museums under this definition, the same applies to many other places, such as natural, archeological, and ethnographical sites, historical places of museum’s nature, based on their function in collecting, conserving, and reflecting the tangible heritage of peoples, and their environment. The definition also encompasses the institutions conserving collections and displaying life animals and plants, such as botanic gardens, zoos, scientific centres, observatories, exhibition halls of libraries, archiving centres, national parks, and any other specialized venues. Clause (13), (1) of Sudan’s Antiquities Protection Act for 1999 stipulates that the Antiquities Authority is charged with conserving antiquities shifted to museums for study, renovation, and display in temporary museums, and storing the remaining objects in proper climatic conditions {1} The Act further stipulates that the museum is the place in which all discovered antiquities are conserved, documented, and renovated, until the time they are exhibited for viewers and researchers. In addition to all these definitions of the basic framework of the meaning of a “museum”, and what is should be like, it is imperative to look into a more recent and comprehensive definition. At the international level, museums at present are the central meeting place for the society, platforms for thinking, impressions, entertainment, and knowledge. They are the museums of the society, since a museum is a public institution, and a meeting point for different segments of the society, whereas it is visited by individuals from all ages, professions, and nationalities, a thing which adds to the burden of museums in satisfying the needs of all these different social segments. {1}
The Museums, the Establishment and Development:
The idea to establish museums goes deep in history, and has a strong relation with the human instinct yearning to collect the most valuable objects, conserve them, and display them to others. Man, since ancient times demonstrated a special interest in gifts, particularly those offered to the goddesses and religious scholars.  Store rooms of ancient temples were packed by such gifts. Pharaohs, for example used to exhibit such gifts in their temples, though they had no idea about the concept of the museum, hence we can say that temples were similar to museums. As well, old public libraries boosted the concept of museums, because they allowed access to their collections of books and objects for both the public and researchers, since the private Roman libraries changed into public libraries. According to sources, the first genuine attempt to establish a museum dates back to 290BC, followed by the establishment of Alexandria Museum in the medieval age. That museum was a research institution under the supervision of the state, where a number of Greek scholars used to work. It consisted of a museum, a lecture hall, a garden, an observatory, a library, and an accommodation section. There were also areas for a botanic garden, an archeological section, and a zoological garden. Other museums established at that time include the Bargam Museum in Asia, and Bargam Library, established by King Attal for the collections of art works, and objects. Ancient Rome saw the establishment of many museums, including a large one in which statutes commemorating Roman rulers and heroes, as well as war booties. {1}
By the advent of the medieval ages, churches and monasteries played an important role in the spread of museum concepts, because those religious institutions were almost museums, but spiritual museums depicting religious practices in an artistic way. Book collections, utensils, and holly images were conserved inside Christian churches. This shows that churches were open museums, by way of their buildings, aesthetics, fresco paintings on their walls, and the wealth of natural treasures.
Muslim communities were famous for collecting artistic objects; Umayyad palaces contained a lot of precious objects and art works; Abbasids collected masterpieces, some of them even had special cabinets for rare crystal pieces.  Andalusia Caliphates conserved treasures of art works and valuable objects in their palaces. In the Ayyubid era, Queen Shajart al-Durr constructed a dome for her husband in 1950G, and exhumed his remains and reburied them inside the dome, and displayed all his weaponry by the two sides of the Mehrab, thus changing the tomb into a museum, according to Al- Maqrizi. During Al-mamluk era, Sultan Mansour Qalaun built a colossal religious complex incorporating a burial area in which he was buried. According to Al-Maqrizi, the burial area contained a cabinet of scientific books. {1}
Among the public museums, under their modern concept, to be set up in the Renaissance was the Asmolean Museum in the University of Oxford, founded by John Tradescant, and inherited by Elias Ashmole, who gifted it to the University of Oxford to be the first nuclei for the Ashmolean Museum opened in 1683 for the public. In the eighteenth century the Vatican Museum was opened, followed by the British Museum in London in 1753. Access to this museum was selective, and those who wanted to visit it should apply in writing, confirming their eligibility, and in case of approval, they had to wait for two weeks to obtain their tickets, whereas the number of visitors was not more than thirty persons, divided in two groups. Most of the exhibits depicted natural history.
As regards museums in the Arab world, we find that the Classical Archaeological Museum was founded in Libya in 1919; the Natural Museum was founded in Sudan in 1936. In Syria, the National Museum was founded in Damascus in 1919, the Popular Traditions and Industries Museum in 1954, the Arab Calligraphy in 1975, and Latakia Museum in 1976. Bardot Museum in Tunisia, founded in 1888 is the oldest Arab museum. {1} The Islamic Heritage Museum was founded in Algiers, and changed into the Islamic Art Museum in 1952; the Coptic Museum in Cairo in 1910, and the Greek Roman Museum in Alexandria in 1895. Egypt is host to about 359 museums in all specialties. In Sudan, Meroe Museum was founded in 1925, followed by Al-Khalifa Museum in 1928, the Ethnographic Museum in 1956, and the National Museum in 1971. {1}
The Military Museum, the Establishment and Development :
The idea of establishing a military of Museum was nourished by the Armed Forces following the creation of the Military Research Administration early 1980, to act as a scientific and cultural arm. Based on the nature of its mission, the newly created administration was tasked by the establishment of a section within its organization (The Military History Section) to focus on the study and documentation of military history. The Section then developed to create the first nuclei of “a military museum” equipped with professional dedicated staff for the documentation and collection of military heritage. The initial organizational structure of the museum was endorsed on 20/4/ 1989, by a decision annexing the Military Museum, initially to the Military Research Administration, and to be set up as an independent unit on a suitable constructed location in future. {1}
The office of the Minister of Defense issued decision No. (11), on 4/7/1997 on the formation of a national committee to deliberate on the creation of the military museum on an area of approximately 15 Feddans at Erkweit suburb, adjacent to the Heart Centre. Accordingly, temporary headquarters for the museum was opened inside the General Military Command in 1999, and the museum was under the Guidance Administration. Decision No. (120)  on the separation of the museum from the Guidance Administration was issued by the Minister of Defense on 28/12/2007. Since then, the Museum has been an independent military unit. {1}
The museum was shifted to Sudan Defense Force Castle in Khartoum, but due to the small size of the place, it was moved to the former Mechanical Transport buildings in Khartoum North, West of the Blue Nile Bridge, and North of Attazi street, on a spacious area, which is more than 20 thousands squire meters, with a large number of exhibit halls. The location overlooks main roads, and encompasses an area to the West of the Blue Nile, which is an exemplary site for family entertainment, and offers an excellent opportunity for constructing a cornice, from east to west, along the Blue Nile. The current location is a major tourist and entertainment attraction.
Display in the Military Museum :
Display is the basic function of the Museum; it is the most appealing to the public. Museum’s collections are not measured by their sizes, components, or weight, rather by the scientific benefits they offered the predecessors, what they can offer in the present time, or in future. Since museums do not exist without collections, we can truly argue that no activity can exist in the absence of scientific documentation. Museums have important messages manifested in accentuating the facts represented by specialized collections, the information pertaining to the collections, since the time of their acquiring, studying, and exhibiting in the museum. Although the collections of museums differ in nature; antiquities, heritage, military objects, agricultural materials, geological, and historical, yet museums share the same basic objective, which is to collect, conserve, manage and exhibit objects. {1}
The collections in the Military Museum are exhibited in two main sections:      
1- The internal Area Section:
 Divided into two halls:
a-General Ahmed Pasha Mohammed Ahmed Al-Jaali, born in the Red Sea State, December 1896, graduated in the Faculty of Engineering, Gordon Memorial College, 1910, and the Military College, 1917. He was the first Sudanese General Commander. The hall has been named after him in commemoration of his memory. Exhibits in this hall document the Blue Sultanate, the Mahdist era, Sudan Defense Force, and the Armed Forces.
The hall is divided into four pavilions, each one documenting for a specific collection, and named after the commanders who were active in the founding of the Museum, as follows:
1 -Brigadier Zain el-Abdeen Hassan Al-Tayeb Pavilion, specialized in photographic documentation, from the Blue Sultanate to Marshal Omer Hassan Al-Basheer era
2 -General El-Fatih Bishara Pavilion, exhibits old weapons, old steel, and fire arms (powder and ammunition) and modern arms
3 -Major General Mahmoud Abdel-Rahman Al-Faki pavilion, contains military uniforms from the Blue Sultanate to the present day
4 -Brigadier Abdel-Wahab Al-Bakri, contains gifts presented to the Commander in Chief, locally or externally, and a special section containing the belongings of Martyr Al-Zubair Mohammed Saleh
2 -The Open Area Section:
This section contains infantry, marine, and amphibious arms; three armor personnel carriers, four presidential vehicles, and military aircrafts; organized according to the use and manufacturing date. {1}
4- Objectives of the Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Administration
The Administration is the base for moral guidance in the Armed Forces, by way of reminding military personnel of the glorious past of their predecessors, portraying their gallantries over the centuries, extracting lessons and wisdoms through the study and analysis of old wars, the personal history of the veterans, and army commanders.
The Administration aims at the dissemination of museum’s education and culture, and establishing linkage between the citizen and the armed forces, through portraying the heroism of armed forces commanders in defending the mother land. The Administration has been designed in a way that suits the functions and duties for which it has been formed, in order to secure the most exemplary performance. The Administration has been created in order to represent the nation in the best possible manner, as well as to become a trustworthy reservoir for conserving, documenting military history, and exhibiting this national wealth through all possible channels, in realization of its objectives.
The proposed structure copes with the technological development, and openness that characterized the Armed Forces throughout its long history in different times. The issues taken into consideration at the time of formulating the proposed structure concentrated on evading the negative aspects in the function of the current organization. The presence of a technical cadre in specific specializations, in this administration, based on professionalism, was apparent. That is why job description in the proposed structure, was thoroughly scrutinized. The structure guarantees the creation of a technically and administratively integrated, self sufficient organization, whereas all sections come under a unified command that shoulders the same responsibilities that may achieve its objectives; and the technical and administrative cadre that satisfies the needs of the organization, considering vertical and horizontal relations, which eases its functioning, and strikes a technical balance. {1}
Components of the Administrative Structure:
The Administration of Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History is divided into:
    The Headquarters of Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Unit
    The Museums and Military Antiquities Unit
    The Exhibitions and Information Unit
    The Military History and Documentation Unit
    The Administration and Logistics Unit
Duties of the Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Unit:
    Registering military history by documenting for military units in the Museum’s periodical;
    Adopting scientific methods for collecting historical military objects from their source. These include equipment, machinery, and documents;
    Seeking to find modern techniques for collecting, conserving, maintaining, and displaying historical letters, and launching fixed and mobile exhibitions;
    Organizing campaigns of mobile exhibitions to tour the states during national and military occasions to demonstrate the military heritage, and educate the military personnel and civilians on the achievements of their armed forces;
    Tracing and publishing veteran’s and commander’s memoir;
    Identifying sources of military history and heritage in local and external publishing houses for the purposes of research, documentation, and publishing of historical information;
    Spreading museum’s awareness among the citizens in a way that enables them to be familiarized with their motherland history;
    Establishing relations with sister institutions and professionals to support documentation of military history, and coordinating joint excavations efforts, exchange of expertise, and training with the National Authority for Antiquities and Museums
Functions of the Museums and Military Antiquities Unit:
The Unit is charged with the classification, study, and documentation of the existing antiquities, through the adoption of modern scientific techniques; the proper maintenance and conservation of military effects; drafting general plans and policies for the Museum and its branches; coordination and follow up with military guidance units. (1)
Functions of the Museums and Information Unit:
             The Unit is charged with the classification, study, and documentation of the existing antiquities, through the adoption of modern scientific techniques; the proper maintenance and conservation of military effects; drafting general plans and policies for   the Museum and its branches; coordination and follow up with military guidance units. (1)
Functions of the Military History and Documentation Unit:
  Documenting and conserving military history, and major Armed Forces events, as well as its victories and major events; research, and commanders resume
Functions of the Administration and Logistics Units:
Designing the Unit’s administrative and logistics annual plans, specifying the required staff in various ranks; supervising recruitment, and providing vehicles for the administrative work
The Future Vision:
        The Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Administration (the Military Museum) has developed a crystal clear vision for the future of the Military Museum. The Museums’ future is envisaged in the following projects:
    The Museum should be a major attraction for visitors, and a must-visit site for both foreign and domestic viewers;
    The open display area must conserve all the old big weapons, such as planes, and armored carriers; the display of objects must be attractive and in accordance with the best modern display techniques, similar to foreign museums;
    The internal display area must be luxurious, and the display of objects based on scientific methods;
    There is need for an open park and green spaces, so that families may enjoy their visit;
    The Museum’s location on the Western banks of the Blue Nile can be transformed into a river transport hub linking old river transport routs with the Museum;
    Constructing shopping areas adjacent to the proposed open park and green spaces;
    Establishing libraries to be accessed by researchers, besides an electronic library and top-notch archiving system;
    Establishing a military records section to conserve documents and manuscripts in a scientific way
The study recommends the following:
     Modernizing the Military Museum and equipping it with modern digital technologies, in order to cope with the technological advancement;
     Creating a web site for the Museum to enable electronic interaction with visitors;
    Developing a military panorama inside the Museum depicting an old battle of which the Sudanese national is pride;
    Collecting and conserving the military heritage scattered in states’ military units;
     Distributing cassette tapes recording the Museums’ contents among students and researchers;
    Allowing public access during two days in the week, from 8:00 pm to 21:00 am, as well as public holidays;
    Encouraging students and researchers to pursue master degrees and doctorates in military history, of which the Museum is part;
    Designing visitors’ entertainment areas a long the Western banks, and the Southern extension of the Blue Nile;
    Designing galleries, shooting ranges, and electronic ranges;
    -Utilizing the tourist potential of the Blue Nile, and establishing a link between the touristic sites and the Museum   
The Findings:
    The study asserts the cultural and educational message of museums;
    It further asserts the pivotal role museums play in spreading nationalistic values among the generations through their familiarization with the heroic actions of their predecessors;
    Military museums familiarize the citizen with the ancient military heritage, and military traditions;
     Museums are large venues for collecting, conserving, and displaying heritage for visitors;
    Military museums study military battles, and personify them in documentary films and panoramas
Museums have cultural, educational, and academic messages. The military museum, in particular has multiple messages of paramount importance. The Museums, Exhibitions, and Military History Administration shoulders the responsibility of enhancing nationalist tendencies among young generations by displaying the gallantries, military heritage, traditions, and history of their armed forces under one roof, so that those who visit the Military Museum enjoy touring the different pavilions, and viewing the equipments, costumes, and other military exhibits.
1- Limiya Musa Al-Awamly, The science of Museums, Tripoli, 1984
2- Usama Abdel-Rahman El-Nour, Archaeology Report, U of K, 1959
3- Hassan Hussain Idris, History of Museums and their role in the society, Khartoum Magazine, issue (23), 1997
4- Ahmed Mohammed Ali Hakim, the Short Guide, Sudan Museum, Khartoum, 2002
5-Rifaat Musa Mohammed, Introduction to Museum’s Art, Addar Almassriya Allibnaniya, Cairo 2002
6- Najm el-Din Mohammed Shareef, The Short Guide, Sudan Museum, 2002
7- Mohammed Abdel- Gadir Nasr el-Din, Sudanese Armed Forces, Umdurman, Military Printing Press, 2004
8- Sumaiya Hassan Mohammed Ibrahim, Museum Art, Dar Al-Maarid, 2005
9- Salah Omer El-Sadiq, Sudanese Archaeological Studies, Dar Azza Publishing, 2006
10- The Military Museum Publication, Issue (30)
11- The Military Museum Organizational Structure, 2010
    All footnotes and references have number 1= (1) {1} did not translate!!!
    The Arabic text says there are “TWO halls” (highlighted in red in the translation) in the museum, but it mentions hall “a” only. Failed to find hall “b”


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