The UK British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones hosted transport and heritage sector stakeholders to a one-day workshop this week to showcase outcomes from ongoing work to promote the UK-Nigeria shared heritage in the railway sector, and to showcase outcomes on a collaborative project between the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Oxford University and heritage group, Legacy 1995, which runs the railway museum at Jaekel House, Ebute-Metta.
The event, which took place at his Lagos Residence, brought together key stakeholders from the transport and heritage sector; groups as diverse as transport operators, academics, Lagos State Government policymakers and UK British Business Groups in Nigeria to discuss ways and means to leverage railway and transport heritage assets, buildings and stories for social impact and economic development.
The event also featured an exhibition of photographs from the heritage project, opened by the Managing Directo of the Nigeria Railway Corporation, Engineer Fidet Okhiria.
Speaking at the event, Ben Llewellyn Jones said:
” I’m delighted to be here with other distinguished speakers, participants and volunteers to strengthen the discourse on the UK-Nigeria heritage collaboration project and how this rich history of British-Nigerian heritage can be approached collaboratively in parallel projects and arenas.
“The digital heritage project, which has used UK research funding to work with partners in Nigeria, is designed to document and record railway history in ways which are local to each area of Nigeria, and we are glad this is happening at a time when Nigeria is redeveloping its rail networks.
“This project shows how UK research impact funding can be used to work with a wide array of stakeholders – government agencies, NGOs and the public – to bring history and heritage to life and make it relevant to local communities.
“Today is a great opportunity for us to showcase a project which has used UK research funding to work with partners in Nigeria who are interested in depicting their own heritage in the digital era; you can see the NRC, NGOs, academics and publics collaborating to really localise the international story of the railways in their own communities”
Taiye Olaniye, Legacy 1995’s Vice-President and a retired staff of Nigerian Postal Service who volunteered as one of the lead researchers on the project, said “local history is a stimulant to the appreciation of cultural heritage.
“This workshop facilitates cross fertilisation of ideas on how railway history and heritage can be preserved and promoted in Nigeria.”
The project also brought in the skills of railway employees including the Public Relations officers across the network, and volunteer researchers ranging from students to those in their 70s, to highlight their own local perspectives on the impact of the railways in their own communities.
Olly Owen, research coordinator on the project, said:
“We have been really lucky in the level of support and goodwill the project has received from NRC staff, to professionals such as architects and award-winning photographers putting in their time, to the support of organised local research groups.
“At a moment when Nigeria is redeveloping its rail network for the future, we want to show how the heritage of the railways connecting people and places can be a resource in itself – not just for education, or remembering, or a sense of identity but also a material resource for culture and tourism.”
Ifunanya Madufo of Centre for Memories in Enugu, which who participated in the research, said:
“Speaking to people about this history really brought out their memories about how the railways helped ordinary people from each locality to trade, communicate and develop a huge range of professions.”
The UK-Nigeria heritage collaboration project work was funded by an Impact Acceleration Account from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, through Oxford University’s Institute of Cultural and Social Anthropology.
Impact Acceleration funding allows UK research institutions to work with partners from all sectors to apply social sciences knowledge to challenges in society.
To complete the project, an online resource will include 3-D digital models of selected sites so that they can be enjoyed via the web from anywhere in the world.