In Uganda, our partners the Uganda National Museum and the National Memory and Peace Documentation Centre (NMPDC) have developed a mobile exhibition that shares heritage objects from the Museum’s collection with communities. The mobile exhibition aims to engage young people, teachers and community members and opens space to reflect on the role of objects in conflict, peace and transition. Before, during, and after conflict, the symbolism of objects from the Museum’s collection are explored by elders and young people, enabling a unique form of dialogue about conflict and reconciliation.
The mobile exhibition seeks to document and display the ways in which Ugandans experience conflict and support processes for dialogue to heal from it. The National Museum’s collection of cultural objects, archives and audiovisual materials usually do not leave the physical walls of the Museum in the capital city, Kampala. The travelling exhibition aims to make them accessible to secondary schools in northern Uganda, including in communities most affected by armed conflict. It aims to amplify the informal learning practices opened by travelling testimonies and exhibitions in the communities for young people. The purpose is to draw an understanding between formal (in schools and through curriculum) and informal learning (in communities and via multisensory engagement with objects and testimonies) to work towards building sustainable peace and reconciliation among young people in post-conflict areas. It is argued that learning is happening in spaces of museums, memorial places and within families. Cultural artefacts also hold memories of information through which oral stories are being taught. Our research explores the pedagogical processes involved with the mobile exhibition experience, with attention to the meanings that young people make from the experience and how these might be conceptualised as learning outcomes.
The project aims to promote teaching about peace and reconciliation outside the classroom in post-conflict areas in Uganda by:
- creating safe spaces in schools for expressing conflict-related experiences.
- Using NMPDC’s database of recent conflicts in Uganda as a template to encourage dialogue around other violent histories. In doing so, the exhibition will encourage discussions around teaching peace and reconciliation outside the classroom.
- working with schools across conflict areas, including with teachers, students and various district and national stakeholders in Peace education, such as, National Curriculum development authority, Ministry of Education and Sports, heritage organizations, district education offices and district community development offices.
Using objects over time has been a great strategy in recollecting memories of past events. By focusing on a particular object and its significance, community members can explore how this has changed over time and how violence may have shifted the meanings and uses of objects. Elders have also shared how objects can be resymbolised as part of healing and reconciliation processes.
So far, the traveling exhibition has visited the towns of Lira, Gulu and Arua in Northern Uganda.
"Elders know much about peace and speak about it while students are always in school studying history mostly about colonialism. Massacres places/sites, monuments etc. are not talked about, so beyond the classroom lectures, there are others avenues to learn about peace and conflicts."
Abiti Adebo Nelson - Curator for Ethnography and History, Uganda National Museum and EdJAM Co-Investigator
The project has supported an engagement with international partners and individuals to reveal the importance of informal learning. We have learnt from Bhopana Centre in Cambodia, who are using a mobile app to link with young learners and teachers on dialogical teaching about past conflicts. The use of technology and exposure to cultural artefacts is challenging to several rural schools in northern Uganda. There is a need to understand that young people are seeking peace (Teacher, Lira, 2021), however, the setback is due to inadequate use of digital heritage to stream artefact stories for peace education. Most of the learners depended on teachers for the information they would want to know.
The travelling exhibition begins to help bridge this gap by getting objects out of the Museum’s collections and into dialogue in and with communities. Digitization and the development of an app are the next steps for this project.
This work is supported by an AHRC GCRF Network grant, led by Abiti Nelson, Lizzi Milligan and Kate Moles.