First opened in 1924 to the public, the Kitale Museum is the first domestic museum opened in Kenya. Originally known as the Stoneham Museum, which was named after Colonel Hugh Stoneham who had been a large contributor and collector of the artifacts held within the museum up until his death in 1966. It was later renamed the Kitale Museum when it was established by the National Museums of Kenya in 1974.
The Kitale Museum used to be a privately owned museum prior to the death of Colonel Stoneham. After he died he willed funds as well as his entire collection, which included an extensive insect collection to the Kenyan government so that they could establish a national museum. In 1974 a new museum building was founded in Kitale on 5 acres of land making the Kitale Museum the first regional museum to become a part of the Kenya Museum Society.
Kitale Museum is located in western Kenya in Trans-Nzoia County. It is exactly 380 kilometres northwest from the nation’s capital, Nairobi. The museum is 1 km west of the town centre on the outskirts of Kitale. A majority of the collections within the museum are items gathered from various tribes within Kenya such as the Luyha, Maasai and the Turkana. The museum displays their traditional Kenyan homes, weaponry, utensils and native musical instruments. The museum also includes a nature trail, which was created in 1977 and is located towards the back of the museum. This nature trail conserves various rare plants and animals. It is a serene makeshift rainforest that allows visitors of the museum to experience what it’s like to be inside an actual Kenyan rainforest. The museum also holds animals such as Nile crocodiles, leopard tortoises and various poisonous snakes such as the puff adder, rock python, Gaboon viper and the rhinoceros viper.
The museum was the first of the Inland museums to be developed in Kenya. It used to be known by the name the Stoneham Museum. It got its name from an amateur naturalist who lived in Kitale, by the name Lieutenant colonel Hugh Stoneham. He had a collection of insects, other animals and books from 1894 when he was only five years old. He continued his collection until 1966 when he died. Mrs. Linda Donley a peace Corp volunteer was the first curator in 1974.
In 1926, he founded the Stoneham Museum, a private museum and later willed his collections as well as funds for a new museum building to the Kenya Nation. A new building was erected on five acres of land on the outskirts of Kitale town. In December 1974, the National Museums of Western Kenya was opened and became the first regional museum in the Kenya Museum Society.
The Kitale Museum has a lot of ethnographical materials collected from surrounding ethnic groups in addition to Stoneham’s collections.
The museum now practice environmental conservation. It has a nature trail and Olof Palme Memorial Agroforestry – center, which was started in 1983. Its aim (the center) was to promote agroforestry in West Pokot district.
The museum’s nature trail was worked on beginning in August 1977. The work involved building bridges and cutting steep sides of the stream bank through which the trail runs.
The period from July 1974 until June 1975 had been spent in acquisition of materials for the museums exhibits. In April 1987, the museum acquired 30 acres of a natural riverine forest. The forest has been used for conservation of various plant species and wild animals.
From Col. Stoneham’s extensive Lepidoptera collection, scientists in Western Kenya specimens can access them in study given the excellent manner and organization that they have been handled with.
The Education department in Kitale museum has been organizing programs for Secondary schools and colleges where various people have given lectures and relevant films have been screened.
Kitale museum is located at (233, 124) on the grid of Top Sheet 75/3. Kitale is in Trans-Nzoia district of the Rift Valley province. The museum is within the town about 1 km from the town center. The town itself is about 380 km from Nairobi the capital city. It lies Northwest of Nairobi.
For more information contact:
P.O.Box 1219- 30200 Kitale.
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