Last Monday I was invited to attend the ground breaking ceremony for what will be the site of the Modern History exhibition at the National Museum and Arts Gallery (NMAG) at Waigani. The ceremony was officiated by Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture and Menyamya MP Benjamin Philip and witnessed by Alotau MP Charles Abel, diplomats, museum staff and partners.
Since Dr. Andrew Moutu’s appointment as Acting Director, this is only the second event now that I have been to at the NMAG, which is a great effort for Dr. Moutu and his board since I don’t remember coming to anything here since the 80’s.
The planned K1.5 million building will house World War II relics including the much publicised B-17 Bomber, Swamp Ghost. All the war relics currently located at the NMGA site at Gordon’s will also be moved to Waigani to join this new exhibition.
The ground breaking ceremony itself was a small affair but it has been interesting to note the immense pressures and turmoil all the players in this event had gone through to get here. At one point Charles Abel who was then Toursim & Culture Minster was at loggerheads with several other Provincial Governors over allowing Robert Greinert to remove the Swamp ghost wreck from PNG for restoration. But a deal was struck between Minister Abel and Aero Archaeology (who had employed Greinert to do the excavation), in exchange for the plane leaving the country Aero Archaeology would in turn pay a sizeable sum of money to have a Modern History exhibition built and to pay compensation to the landowners where the plane had landed.
This deal seems to be finally showing tangible results, Minister Philip also added during the event that this was the first step in a modern and structured approach to preserve national and historical memories.
Museum director Dr Andrew Moutu also outlined initiatives his board was taking including the construction of a replica of the original House of Assembly to be given to the national museum. The museum will also house an international standard convention centre, for which the government has given K37 million. You can read Dr. Moutu’s full speech here.