The history of museums in Nigeria started in 1945, when Baragbon, a hunter founded the first and oldest museum to be established in Nigeria, the Esie museum. This gallery is said to house some of the world’s largest collection of soapstone images and art exhibitions and has been listed among the top tourist destinations in the country.
Also, in 1957, Kenneth Murray, an English archaeologist founded the Nigerian National Museum to preserve valuable artworks and artefacts in the country. His aim, was to collect valuable ancient artefacts, preserve them so as to educate Nigerians, tourists and even Englishmen on the culture, art, history and traditions of Nigeria.
Today, Nigeria has a total number of more than 40 registered museums and galleries, scattered around every 36 state, most especially in cities like Benin and Calabar in the south, Kaduna and Kano in the north while the popular museums in Lagos where people visit a lot, also add to promote and serve as a reminder, the vast cultural historical heritage of the people.
If you are searching for popular museums to visit in Nigeria as a tourist, or just for research purposes to learn more about pieces of history that concerns issues relating to slave trade, artifacts, or even for future references, we have outlined in this write-up some of the best museums in Nigeria to visit and their various locations.
Full List of Museums in Nigeria
1. National Museum, Onikan, Lagos
The National Museum in Lagos State one of the oldest Nigerian museums to visit as a tourist this year. It is located at Onikan, Lagos. Founded in 1957 by Kenneth Murray, it showcases and preserves the historical artifacts, archaelogical excavations, art works and exhibits of ancient Nigeria times.
Some artefacts on display at the museum’s gallery is the Mercedes Benz Saloon Car driven by the former military head of state, General Murtala Muhammed. The car serves as an evidence is dully preserved and it shows the bullet holes which reminds us about Murtala’s assassination in 1976.
2. Jos Museum
Another popular museum in Nigeria you can visit for research is the Jos Museum which is situated in Plateu State. It was founded in 1952 and has many art works predating the colonial era unto Nigeria’s pre-historic era.
One of such items archaelogical item on display is the Nok terracotta heads which dates back to 500 BC. Documents from colonial times is also found at the museum gallery.
3. National War Museum, Umuahia
This museum was established in 1985 and has on display different relics from the Nigerian Civil War between Biafran soldiers and the NIgerian military. Weapons such as war tanks, guns, aircraft can be found there. Situated at Umuahia in Abia State, the National War Museum is seen as a top tourist destination in Nigeria.
4. Benin City National Museum
Benin museum is one of the best museums in the country and a historical tourist attraction centre. This institution was established in 1973 and is situated in Benin City, Edo State. You get a feel of the ancient Benin Empire as artefacts of the original Benin bronze sculptures, chains and other slave items are on display there.
5. Kaduna National Museum
This museum is one of the most popular Nigerian museums located in the North. It was established in the year 1975 with its location at Kaduna state. Exhibits and archeological artefacts like bronze statues, terracotta and other sculpted works can be found there.
6. Old Residency Museum, Calabar
This is the another ancient museums in Nigeria attracting visitors and tourists from around the world. History has it that this museum was built in 1884, during the colonial times. It is located in Calabar, capitl of Cross River State.
In fact, the museum was the former headquarters of the colonial authorities. Today, it is now a hub that displays well preserved relics of colonial and pre-colonial times, relics from the slave trade era in Calabar and other important artifacts.
7. Esiẹ Museum
The Esie Museum is regarded by many as one of the ancient museums that is functional in Nigeria. Its location is in Kwara State and it was opened in 1945. Within its gallery are some captivating old artifacts on display. It is said that the stone figures in this museum dates back to 400BC, no wonder tourists and researchers attention are drawn to this Nigerian museum.
You can also find two types of gallery at the Esie Museum housing more than two thousand artifacts. It is reported that by December each year, a festival is held in honour of the various monuments at the museum.
8. Gidan Makama Museum, Kano
The Gidan Makama Museum is regarded as one of the oldest musuems existing in Nigeria today. It is placed among the monuments we have in this country and it is located in Kano state. Tracing its history back to the 15th century, it was the former palace of the Emir of Kano and it has many important art crafts, sculptural collections, items of historic interest, etc.
Visiting the site, one can see the 11 galleries from the main entrance hall where traditional materials of old are displayed, the relics of the old city walls, 19th century Kano, and items recovered from the civil war, etc.
9. Badagry Heritage Museum
This is the most visited museum in Nigeria due to its link with the slave trade. Badagry was the area where slaves were sold or traded by the British. It was established in 1863 at Badagry in Lagos state and is a major museum in Nigeria and also for Africans.
This museum has enough relics that reminds one about his or her heritage. Iron chains, briddle, canons, weapons and other slave materials are seen on display at the Badagry museum. Also the first storey building in Nigeria was erected at Badagry.
10. Oron Museum
Oron museum has history especially as regards to the Nigerian/Biafran civil war. Located in Oron, Akwa Ibom state, you can see on display some old exhibits and relics of the Civil War. Items like the bunker of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, first President of Biafran Republic is on display for tourist and other researchers.
Its part of the major museums in the country that was first erected in 1959 before it was plundered by the civil war. It was until 1975 that it was reconstructed and has since become a hub for those who want to reconnect with the past.
Other top museums in Nigeria include:
- Gidan Makama Museum Kano
- Kanta Museum
- National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos
- Nigerian National Museum
- Owo Museum
- Uli Beier Museum
- National Museum of Colonial
- History, Aba
- War Museum, Umuahia
- Niger-Delta Museum
- CRIMMD Museum Nigerian Photo
- History, Idimu, Lagos
Map showing locations of various museums in Nigeria