Making History: Cameroon’s permanent exhibition in the Information Age gallery at the British Science Museum
by Dr Seraphin Kamdem*, SOAS, Univ. of London (U.K.)
The British Science Museum, based in London, UK, is one of the biggest science museums in the world.
Few countries can boast of a permanent exhibition with their own name attached to it in the new Information Age gallery at the British Science Museum. Thanks to a solid participatory approach in exhibition design and development by the Museum, combined with focused efforts of some committed members of the Cameroonian diaspora in London, that dream is now not only reality, but is now part of History.
Founded in 1857 as part of the South Kensington Museum, the Science Museum’s ‘history over the last 150 years has been one of continual change. The exhibition galleries are never static for long, as they have to reflect and comment on the increasing pace of change in science, technology, industry and medicine’. ‘Today the Museum is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions,’ according to its website.
Cameroon at the Information Age Gallery
On Friday 24 October 2014 Her Majesty The Queen opened the new Information Age gallery, by sending her first tweet. It read: “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the@ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.”
Cameroon is now one of only a few countries to have a permanent exhibition as part of the Information Age gallery, and that exhibition will stand for many years to come, as this is a permanent feature in the new gallery.
The Cameroon exhibition showcases the encounter of that country with mobile technologies, with videos, photos and some unique mobile-related artefacts brought all the way from Cameroon. Among them a lot of mobile phones collected in the country, a full call box, the same that can be found in the streets of Cameroon, a complete mobile repairs workshop, and even the famous African talking drum, to show the connections in the communication traditions of the country as they embraced the advent of mobile technologies.
The Cameroonian Diaspora’s work for the Cameroon exhibition in the Information Age gallery
Many members of the Cameroonian Diaspora worked for the last two years for the Cameroon exhibition to become permanently part of the Information Age mega gallery that was opened by HM The Queen on October 24th, 2014.
HM The Queen speaking to the Cameroonian diaspora
During the opening ceremony, the Queen stopped by the Cameroonian exhibition, certainly impressed by its uniqueness, and asked the group of Cameroonian who were standing proudly by the Cameroonian booth, if the MTN Call box in there was ‘original’. We responded that indeed it was an original and authentic piece of our rich realities brought all the way from Cameroon to sit proudly in London and be part of the history of mobile phone communications in the new and stunning gallery.
The Information Age gallery at the British Science Museum
More than 200 years of innovation in communication and information technologies are celebrated in Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World, the biggest and most ambitious gallery to date in the Science Museum.
Information Age is divided into six zones, each representing a different information and communication technology network: The Cable, The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast, The Constellation, The Cell and The Web.
The gallery explores the important events which shaped the development of these networks, from the dramatic stories behind the growth of the worldwide telegraph network in the 19th century, to the influence of mobile phones on our lives today.
Visitors can re-live remarkable moments in history, told through the eyes of those who invented, operated or were affected by the new wave of technology, from the first BBC radio broadcast in 1922 to the dawn of digital TV.
Visitors can also discover how wireless technology enabled lives to be saved and news of the Titanic disaster to be spread to the world within hours of the event, and hear the personal stories of the operators who worked on the Enfield Telephone Exchange, the last manual exchange which marked the end of an era in communication history.
*Dr Seraphin Kamdem holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He studied at the universities of Yaoundé, Cameroon; East Anglia, Norwich, England; North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA; and SOAS, London where he is currently a Senior Teaching Fellow.