Press release

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments Announce New Collaborative Initiative to Develop Cataloguing and Digitization Capabilities of NCMM’s Collections

(New York, April 20, 2023)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) announced today the launch of a long-term project to facilitate the digitization and cataloguing of the NCMM’s collections. The multi-phased initiative will start with an exploration of how the collaboration and training with The Met will best suit the future needs of the NCMM, followed by convenings and workshops between the institutions and the creation of a pilot project in the Nigerian museums around documentation and education. The collaborative initiative furthers the commitment to exchanges of expertise and art between the two organizations that was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2021.

“We are thrilled to be taking this important step forward with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments. The Met has a long history of partnering with institutions around the world on the exchange of ideas and information, and we are honored to undertake this collaborative effort at the request of our colleagues in Nigeria. It is a critical time for The Met to partner with the NCMM on sharing knowledge and research to facilitate the cataloguing of works in what is one of the largest collections of art from Africa on the continent and in the world, ” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “This initiative will provide vital experience and perspective for both institutions, and we look forward to our continuing collaborations.”

The Director General of the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Professor Abba Isa Tijani, commented, “We at the NCMM are highly delighted at the several collaborative initiatives planned by The Met and the NCMM. These initiatives are forward looking and shall cement a budding, mutually supportive relationship that will involve the exchange of expertise and interfacing of scholars from different worlds and perspectives.”

The first year of the initiative is comprised of three phases that began in March 2023 with the establishment of a new residency, to which Chizoba Joy Ephraim—Principal Curator at the National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria—has been appointed. This residency will focus on understanding collection protocols and practices in Nigerian museums so that The Met and the NCMM can develop a plan to digitize these resources and create programming that will turn them into valuable educational resources. During her residency, Ephraim—along with Met experts in the Museum’s curatorial, digital, imaging, and education departments—will explore how the collaboration and training with The Met will best suit the future needs of NCMM and the National Museum, Lagos. For the second phase, The Met will host a virtual convening with experts from the NCMM and the National Museum, Lagos, to share findings and discuss options for developing digital documentation capabilities in advance of a workshop in Nigeria in summer 2023. The convening will also address current needs for basic infrastructure and sustained support for foundational technologies as prerequisites for future digitization activities. The third phase will be devoted to creating a pilot project in the Nigerian museums around documentation and education. Further collaborations will be announced as this long-term partnership continues. 

The Met led similar projects in 2015–16, when it first developed specialized field documentation and imaging kits and trained museum specialists and colleagues from a range of international institutions, focusing on curatorial and documentation problem solving, archeological excavation, site conservation and restoration, and an exchange of information and education.

About the Memorandum of Understanding
In 2021, The Met and the NCMM signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing a shared commitment to future exchanges of expertise and art, including loans of Benin material from The Met for the opening of the museum planned for Benin City and other branches of Nigeria’s national museums, and loans from Nigeria to The Met for the reopening of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing in 2025. Earlier that year, The Met initiated the return of three works of art to the Nigerian National Collections: two 16th-century brass plaques created at the Court of Benin, and a brass head produced in Ife around the 14th century. The Met initiated the returns after collaborative research conducted in partnership with the NCMM and other colleagues led to the joint determination that the works should be transferred to Nigeria. 

About Chizoba Joy Ephraim 
Chizoba Joy is a Principal Curator at the National Museum, Lagos, where she has worked for more than 11 years. Chizoba Joy holds a master’s degree in history and diplomacy from Lagos State University and an undergraduate degree in political science from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria.

During her tenure at the National Museum, Lagos, Chizoba Joy has been involved in many aspects of museum operations, including administration, research, and public-facing programming. Her primary responsibilities as Principal Curator include object-based research, documentation, and collections management.

About The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing
The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at The Met closed to the public in summer 2021 to undertake a major renovation project that reenvisions its collections for a new generation of visitors. The galleries—40,000 square feet on the Museum’s south side—will be overhauled and reimagined to reintroduce the department’s three distinct collections of African art, ancient American art, and Oceanic art, displaying them as discrete elements in an overarching wing that is in dialogue with the Museum’s collection as a whole. The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing is scheduled to reopen in 2025.

About The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens—businessmen and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day—who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. Today, The Met displays tens of thousands of objects covering 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in two iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online. Since its founding, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.

Max Hollein is the Marina Kellen French Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


April 20, 2023

Contact: Meryl Cates

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