Nairobi National Museum
By Maina Kiarie
Nairobi National Museum (NNM) is the flagship museum of National Museums of Kenya (NMK) housing some of the most celebrated collections of history, culture and art from Kenya and East Africa. It is located in Nairobi at Museum Hill, approximately 10 minutes drive from the Nairobi city centre.
Construction of a museum at the current site began in 1929 on fifteen acres of land set aside by the colonial government for this purpose. The new museum at Ainsworth Hill, today’s Museum Hill, called Coryndon Museum was officially opened by the then Governor of Kenya, Sir Edward Grigg, on September 22, 1930.
The first Museum, known as the Museum of Natural History was established in 1910 in Nairobi in a rented building where Nyayo House stands today. In 1922, it was moved to Kirk Road, today’s Valley Road where Serena Holtel stands, when the room became too small to display the large collection that had been amassed.
Coryndon museum, the nucleus of the current museum, consisted of a foyer giving way to the central hall, ninety feet long and fifty feet wide surrounded on three sides by a ten-foot wide gallery. One wing housed the library and administrative offices while the laboratories and workrooms were at the back. In 1964, the Coryndon Memorial Museum was renamed National Museum of Kenya.
The first major refurbishment of the museum since 1930 began in October 2005 when the NNM temporarily closed its doors to the public for extensive modernization and expansion. President Mwai Kibaki laid the foundation stone in 2006 and two years later, on July 14, 2008, he officially re-opened the Nairobi National Museum. Attractions at the museum include: art galleries, temporary exhibitions, botanical gardens and nature trail. The museum has 10 permanent exhibitions including the Cradle of Mankind, Great Hall of Mammals, Cycles of Life, Hall of Kenya and the Centennial History of Kenya exhibition.
In 2007, construction of an administration block dubbed ‘Heritage Centre’ was completed, and currently serves as the headquarters of the National Museums of Kenya. In the same year, the staff entrance along Kipande Road was completed.