Museum

Background

Currently, there is no health museum of any sort any where in the country. The museum that was founded under Wellcome Tropical Research Laboratoriesin Khartoum (WTRLK) a century ago, and the Graphic Museum that was founded later, vanished. Recent promising nuclei, which were ambitiously established in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum in its heyday shows signs of decay and imminent danger.

Since he arrived in Khartoum and resumed office in 1902, Dr Andrew Balfour, the first Director of WTRLK and first Officer of Health of Khartoum, started building up two museums, the Laboratory Museum and the General and Economic Museum together with a ‘Therapeutic Garden’ and a library.

In the first WTRLK report, Balfour had this to say about the Laboratory Museum:

“The museum of the laboratories has progressed steadily since its formation. It is primarily devoted to the collection and exhibition of specimens and photographs showing the diseases of man and animals met with in the Sudan, and maps indicating their respective distribution. It now contains over a score of mounted specimens illustrative of human pathology and tropical disease – those of mycetoma, so prevalent in the Sudan, may be specially mentioned, several of veterinary interest, a small collection of skulls, and what promises to be a very fine and complete set of photographs illustrative of the native diseases of the Sudan, … In addition to these exhibits a collection has been made of the remedies indigenous to, or used in, the Sudan by the native races. Over a hundred different drugs have been obtained from various parts, some of considerable interest, and to facilitate the study of those of vegetable origin and of poisonous plants employed in the Sudan a plot of ground has been enclosed and what may be called a “therapeutic garden’ has been started …”

The ‘Therapeutic Garden,’ the museum, and the library were all launched together with the start of the laboratories. The ‘garden’ did not succeed and was soon abandoned. Of the General and EconomicMuseum of the laboratories, Balfour reported:

“In this museum, but associated with the laboratories’ work, are various specimens of diseased dura, a collection of mosquitoes including microscopical preparations of the three genera most common in Khartoum, examples of injurious insects such as those which destroy the melon plant, and the aphides, so destructive to the dura crop.”

Over the years, both museums grew markedly in size and the Laboratory Museum in particular increased in terms of its pathological and entomological material, biting flies, ticks, mosquitoes, and native drugs from different parts of the country. When WTRLK was dismantled, the exhibits of these museums were distributed among the different splinters of the dismantled body.

Whether stored in Stack Medical Research Laboratory (SMRL), in Wellcome Chemcial Laboratory or in Medical Entomology section, the exhibits, which WTRLK collected through decades of hard work, were lost at the end. The catalogues, which were published for the herbal, organic, and inorganic exhibits, and of course, the WTRLK Reports were the only reminders of these memorable institutions.
In a paper presented to the Eighth Annual Conference of the Philosophical Society of the Sudan in 1960, Khalafalla Babiker El Badri, Chief Public Health Inspector, Ministry of Health, read the following regarding the Graphic Museum in Khartoum (GM):

“The GraphicMuseum in Khartoum, opened in 1936, plays a prominent part (in health education). It is a good institution for training medical and health students and it is very frequently visited by members of the public, schoolboys and girls. The Graphic Museum sends models, posters and leaflets to the outstations to form cultural shows and tribal gatherings. Other functions of the Museum include short courses to administrative officers (including police, prison and local government officers), members of the medical corps, auxiliary health workers, school boys and girls.”

During the sessions of the above-mentioned conference, the curator of the GM, Mr. Sayyid Baroudi and his staff arranged an exhibition of 61 items relating to the health of the Sudan.
The GM building stood east of SMRL, had a similar architecture, and occupied approximately the same area of the NHL, which was later built on its site. The Report of the Medical Services, MOH for the year 1963/1964, stated that ‘The Graphic Museum has been closed since its demolition in 1962. The new building is nearing completion and is expected to open soon.’

The GM, most probably was out of function even earlier when
it was condemned and closed pending demolition. The ‘new building’ alluded to
was built but never functioned as GM. It is occupied by the current FMOH
Continuous Professional Development Centre.

When the GM was destined to be demolished, its exhibits were
packed up and stored in the new buildings. They were never unpacked and
displayed for reasons unknown. The rooms that were earmarked to be museum rooms
were converted into offices and the exhibits lost. Reminders of these items are
to be found in anecdotal nostalgic memories of the elderly who enjoyed visiting
the GM.

The pathology
museum, which was established with the start of the Department of Pathology in
the Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum, grew steadily in time,
and all specimens were professionally kept and displayed. In 1964, recognizing
the importance of preserving these specimens, Professor Ahmed Mohamed El-Hassan
upgraded this museum and did his best in maintaining it. The museum was
envisaged as a repository
and historical record for the interesting and rare specimens that he and other
pathologists in the Sudan received everyday. The museum provided teaching
material for undergraduate, postgraduate and students of health sciences.
Currently, this museum is showing signs of decay, and instead of maturing, its
growth is arrested and it is in need of immediate rehabilitation.