Opened for signing on July 24, 1971, the day following the death of President William V.S. Tubman, the book of condolence for Liberia’s longest serving President is now covered with dust and lies in ruin at the National Museum of Liberia.
Having Liberia’s official seal on each page, the book is made of thick paper and comprises more than 300 pages, with some parts lost, ragged and separated.
Discovered after it went missing during the civil war, the cover page of the book is no longer available. The book was rained on while in the museum, and was placed in the sun to dry. But after being in the museum for more than three years, the book has still not been restored to its original form.
While the book has been found, the memory of people who expressed sympathy with the country during that dark period is at great risk of being lost and forgotten.
The original color of the book of condolence has faded and is fast decaying. In the midst of grief and sorrow, the book of condolence is an example of how the nation was united in a time trouble, as people came from all parts of the country to sign the book. Also among the signatures are those of people from around the world who converged on Monrovia for the funeral of the late Liberian head of state.
The first page of the existing book contains the signature of Dominique Kowka-Ganga, then Ambassador from Central African Republic.
“This would be the greatest loss to Liberia and the world,” remarked former Chief Justice, Mr. Chea Cheapoo.
The book has now been removed from its original position for public viewing and placed in a box along with other artifacts in the same deplorable condition.
According to museum director, Albert Markeh, the book was removed from public view since visitors, especially students, did not handle it properly, which led to pages being torn out on an occasional basis.
“I can’t’ blame them because the book itself is not as strong as before and so if you don’t flip the page carefully the sheet will be cut off. And if nothing is done to rebound the book we risk losing everything,” Mr Markeh said.
“Because of this situation the book has to be removed and placed in a box before it is totally damaged.
“Everything is being done in our capacity as custodians of these historical artifacts to keep them safe, but whenever we send proposals to government to better improve the method we use to preserve the artifacts, all we are told is ‘there’s no money to undertake such a project.’”
He said that the materials need a glass cage along with an air conditioner to make them long lasting and safeguard their original color, “but this is not being done.”
The museum director describes the decaying condition of other artifacts as sorrowful and appeals for urgent assistance to keep the memories of many great people alive.
“The sooner the better,” he said.
A few months ago, the Assistant Minister for Culture, Louise McMillan, disclosed that US$345,000 has been allotted for the renovation of the museum, but failed to state when the project will be completed leaving many people in doubt.
She said the renovation will include everything, even restoring some damaged artifacts and placing them in glass cages.