Marie Royce, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, could hardly conceal her emotions as she lavished praise on Albert Saye Markeh, director of the National Museum for bringing the museum to an appreciable standard that attracts tourists and other visitors.
In her words of commendation on June 28, Ms. Royce added, “I would like to recognize the director of the National Museum of Liberia, Mr. Markeh. He participated in a 2014 International Visitor Leadership Program in the United States on Museum Management. I understand that he has worked for the museum in a variety of capacities since 1991, and was an integral part of the efforts to renovate and reopen this institution in 2017. Congratulations to Mr. Markeh.”
The Liberia National Museum had remained dilapidated for years until 2017 when support was provided during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration to have it renovated and restored. Restoration work was carried out under the supervision of Mr. Markeh.
Upon entry into the ground floor of the museum different designs of paintings and long manuscripts giving detail information about the paintings provide almost instant attraction. There are also cultural artifacts gathered locally along with masks representing ethnic groups from the 15 counties.
The first floor also has similar informative manuscripts and photos of events that have taken place in Liberia; the gruesome civil war, the devastating Ebola viral disease and the infamous executions of 13 government officials in 1980.
Also on display, is the chair used by Liberia’s 18th President, William V.S. Tubman in the Masonic Temple, the #9 jersey worn by President George Weah, different currencies Liberia has used, and enlarged portraits of former President Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai. The second and last floor contains fashion designs of African attires.
The museum also has electronic monitors through which activities carried out there are monitored by the director and the rest of the workers.
According to Markeh, Ms. Royce’s recognition of his work came as a pleasant surprise because he had no idea that his performance was being recognized by others from afar. Besides the up-to-date paintings and information in the museum, Markeh has also created a library there, and is collecting a wide variety of books for public use, a venture, he says will help people in search of information for research purposes.
He said rather than blowing his own horn, much of his work has been behind the scenes without publicity all because he wants people see evidence of what he has accomplished. His long stay in museum work has built in him the passion, and he said despite the constraints associated with gathering informative materials, he remains passionate and does not mind the difficulties involved in securing needed materials.
Markeh said securing books and other materials at the museum has not really involved spending much money because friends, feeling inspired by his work, usually donate materials he needs. He takes note of the fact that although the museum lacks an adequate amount of artifacts, policies are being formulated to guide the collection of artifacts which he expects to commence within a period of two years.
According to him, Liberian students have over the years been more exposed to Western literature other than their own all because not many Liberian writers have the capacity to publish books and magazines on developments unfolding in their environment.
Concerning Liberia’s history, he lamented that writers have on many occasions demonstrated bias in accounting for the various ethnicities making up the country’s demography, thus fueling hatred for some by others. In response to why writers appear reluctant to publish, Mr. Markeh said he has received complaints from many writers that they have no support, and that writing and publishing are cost intensive.
However, he called on writers to rise above support from political leaders to plan well and source support from elsewhere to apply their knowledge for the benefit of other Liberians, emphasizing that writings they will leave behind will serve to remind others of their work long after they are gone.
The museum, according to Markeh, faces challenge of funding, and the major source of funding is said to come from international donors, including the U.S. Government.