The National Museum of Ethiopia
The first museum was founded as part of the National Library in 1944, when for the first time an exhibition was opened to the public. In this exhibition few ceremonial costumes donated by the royal family and their close associates were displayed.
The foundation of the Institute of Archaeology played a pivotal role in the promotion of the Museum. It was established in 1952 to promote and facilitate the archaeological research mission in the northern part of the country conducted by the French archaeologists. The mission collected a number of valuable historical and archaeological researches. Later, the Museum was transferred to present National Bank of Ethiopia Employees Club. Eventually, it was moved to the present place in 1966.
The Archaeological Museum, which was founded in 1955, began its activities by exhibiting few archaeological collections mainly from the northern part of the country. In 1966, however, the idea of opening a National Museum and the establishment of the Ethiopian Cultural Heritage Administration got attention and support from the Government.
Then after, the museum began to operate under the National Act, which provided the legal protection and preservation of antiquities and had legislative authority governing the overall archaeological and paleoanthropological sites and monuments with in Ethiopia.
Then, the National Museum of Ethiopia became one department of the Authority for research and conservation of cultural heritage. At present it is located at Amest Killo between Arat Killo and Sidist Killo. The Museum has two buildings habitually called the Old and the new building. The Old building was constructed in 1935 during the Fascist Italian Occupation as a residence for one of Italian Military leaders and the then governor of Addis Ababa.
After the evacuation of the Fascist Italian troops from the country, the building was given to prince Mekonnen the Son of H.I.M Haile Selassie I as a residence. Then it became office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Finally, in 1967, the building was transferred to the National Museum.
The new permanent Museum exhibition building was designed and constructed by the USAID fund under the supervision of the Ministry of construction between the years 1978 -1981 G.C.
During the construction of the building, the UNESCO consultants contributed much in advising on the arrangement of the exhibition galleries. Now the building serves as the exhibition hall.
In 2001, the National Museum transferred its collections from old building to the new one and reorganized the paleontology section by adding some new ancient hominid fossils and animal remains collected mainly from Hadar, the Middle Awash and Omo research sites. Today, it has a large number of artefacts among which archaeological findings take the lion’s share.
The Museum Exhibition Hall has four different exhibition sections. Temporary exhibitions are also organized often by using selected objects from the museum storage based on certain themes and in collaboration with other institutions and private exhibitors as well as regional museums in the old building. Lectures and documentary film shows are also presented regularly to visitors of the museum.
Basic contents of the 4 exhibition sections
- Paleoanthropological and pre-historic section
This section of the museum displays the most significant discoveries of stone tools, and fossil evidences of hominid species among which a 3.2 million years old fossil nick named LUCY or Dinknesh. Ardi aged about 4.4 million years, Selam which was indicated as the earliest child (baby girl) aged about 3.33 million years can be mentioned.
Some of the most famous hominid and other animal fossils found from the Rift Valley and other major archaeological sites / Hadar, Middle Awash, Omo basin, Melka Kunture…etc/ dating back to millions of years are displayed in this section. These discoveries attest to the presence of sophisticated way of life of our ancestors in this part of the world.
Here, visitors will appreciate the know-how and sophistication it required to produce and use diverse stone implements. The pre historic part of the museum has rich collection of stone artefacts dealing with human origins.
- Pre-Axumite period to 20thc Historical Section
According to the evidence established by archaeologists, the history of Ethiopia dates back to the 1st millennium BC. Based on diverse historical evidences, Ethiopia is internationally categorized among those countries of the world, which are recognized as having a tremendous cultural and historical heritage.
The displayed objects in this section show few of the findings depicting the early history from the pre Axumite times (starting during the first half of the 1st millennium) the 20th century AD. Among the most important archaeological objects are pottery, minted coins, crescent disc, bronze identity marks, neck crosses, ancient scripts, ruins of monuments, and different kinds of household items…etc. that clearly manifest the Axumite civilization was at its Zenith.
- The Art Section
The National Museum of Ethiopia is home for over 1500 traditional and contemporary works of art. The permanent Art exhibition of the museum has about 53 different works of Art presenting two main styles of the traditional and contemporary Art.
Traditional painting was used exclusively for religious purpose (Christian Art) for hundreds of years. But, only at the beginning of the 20th century it started to serve secular themes. Priest artists mostly do not sign their paintings considering it as not being humble to put once name beside holies and angels. This tradition continued into the period of secular painting. Hence, this is the main reason for most of the traditional paintings not to be signed and dated. The contemporary paintings in the section are works of thirty Ethiopian artists between 1950 G.C. to 2005 G.C.
In the art section visitors will also see the works of famous Ethiopian artists such as the Most Honourable World Laureate Maitre Artist Afework Tekle who has achieved national and international reputation. He donated more than eighty of his art works to this museum that makes it the owner of the largest collection of the artist’s works. The most known Artist Gebre Kristos Desta and other Artist’s works are also included in the gallery.
In this gallery you will see the gradual change of Ethiopian art from religious to secular themes depicting culture, social life, politics and natural issues important to Ethiopia as well as human kind. The artists have chosen various Medias to express themselves including painting, drawing, sculpture and graphics. One can see the currently displayed works on the 1st floor of the museum.
- The Ethnographic section
Ethiopia is home for various nations, nationalities and peoples who have diverse language and cultures. These people along with their cultures have been living in harmony in this ancient land which is home of the known ancestors of human kind.
This section of the museum is organized to share the richness and diversity of cultures and traditions of the peoples of Ethiopia. Visitors can realize that Ethiopia is the home for the diversified and beautiful cultures of more than 80 ethnic groups.
The exhibition division of the museum is open to visitors.
From Monday-Sunday-including public holidays
Starting from 8:30-A.M-5:30 P.M
The current entrance fee to the museum is
Foreigners Eth. Birr 10.00
Adult Ethiopians Eth.Birr 2
Students Eth.Birr 0.50
Subject to change in the future
Source: National Museum of Ethiopia