Where heritage lives on
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is a multi-disciplinary institution whose role is to collect, preserve, study, document and present Kenya’s past and present cultural and natural heritage. This is for the purposes of enhancing knowledge, appreciation, respect and sustainable utilization of these resources for the benefit of Kenya and the world, for now and posterity.
National Museums of Kenya
NMK manages several regional museums, sites and monuments of national and international importance. NMK also holds priceless collections of Kenya’s living cultural and natural heritage. Here are ten highlights...
Hall of Mammals, Nairobi National MuseumNational Museums of Kenya
3 must-see objects at the museum:
1. Ahmed the Elephant
Come face to face with the most famous elephant of Africa. See the skeleton and a lifesize model of Ahmed, who was known for his large tusks and put under 24 hour protection by President Kenyatta.
2. The Turkana boy
The Turkana boy is the most complete skeleton found of an early hominid. It is 1.6 million years old.
3. The Joy Adamson gallery
Learn more about the iconic illustrator, conservationist and author, and explore her paintings celebrating Kenya's flora, fauna and people.
2: Nairobi Gallery
Built in 1913, Nairobi Gallery was the Old PC’s office building, fondly referred to as ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’ because of the births, marriages and deaths that were recorded here. Today, the building is a national monument, serves as a museum with temporary art exhibitions, and houses the Murumbi African Heritage Collection. The gallery was gazetted as a national monument on 13th April 1995.
The building also houses Point Zero, which is the point from which all distances in Kenya were measured from. The gallery is used to teach school children about measurement and map work.
The Murumbi African Heritage collection
Discover the Joseph and Sheila Murumbi permanent collection, which includes ancient sculptures, paintings and artifacts of daily life from diverse African cultures.
3: Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum was once the centrepiece of a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills, owned by Danish author Karen Blixen and her Swedish husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke. Located 10 km from the city centre, the museum belongs to a different time period in the history of Kenya. The National Museums of Kenya took over management of the house in 1985 and it was officially opened as a museum in 1986.
'Out of Africa'
The farmhouse gained international fame with the release of the movie Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. The movie is based on Karen Blixen's autobiographical novel from 1937.
4: Uhuru Gardens National Monument
Located along Langata road, 15 minutes drive from Nairobi city center, is Uhuru Gardens, Kenya’s largest Memorial Park. 'Uhuru' is a swahili word meaning freedom. The gardens were officially declared a National Monument in 1966 because of their historical importance. Within the gardens are a Mugumo (fig) tree and two monuments commemorating Kenya’s independence.
The Mugumo (fig) tree is very important to the Kenyan people. The tree is symbolic as it was planted on the spot where the Union Jack (British flag) was brought down and Kenya’s national flag was first hoisted, thus marking the very first year of independence on the 12th December 1963.
20th Anniversary Monument
The three sculptures showcased here represent the spirit of the Kenyan people. The 1st sculpture with the man, a shield and two spears symbolizes courage, strength and defense of freedom. The middle one stands for the Kenyan motto; Amani, Upendo na Umoja i.e. love, peace and unity. The last sculpture of the four men hoisting up the Kenyan flag represents oneness.
25th Anniversary Monument
Erected in 1987 to celebrate the anniversary, the monument depicts three people pushing a marble prism and column. This symbolizes the oneness of the Kenyan people.
5: Hyrax Hill Museum
Located within Nakuru town, Hyrax Hill Museum tells the story of the lifestyle of seasonal settlements of prehistoric people from at least 3,000 years ago. The Museum is a former farmhouse, ceded to the museum in 1965 by the Late Mr. A. Selfe. Hyrx Hill was gazetted as an archaeological site on 13th April 1995.
6: Kariandusi archeological Site
Kariandusi lies on the eastern side of the Rift Valley, about 120km north-northwest of Nairobi, and about 2 km to the east side of Lake Elementaita. The site was amongst the first Lower Paleolithic sites discovered in East Africa. There was enough geological evidence found here to show that, in the past, large lakes, sometimes reaching levels hundreds of meters higher than the Present Lake Nakuru and Elementaita, occupied this basin. Kariandusi was gazetted as an archaeological site in the year 1954.
The Kariandusi riverbed
Dating back between 700,000 to 1 million years, Kariandusi is possibly the first Acheulian site to have been found in situ in East Africa. Dr. Leakey, a renowned paleontologist, believed that this was a factory site of the Acheulian period. He made this conclusion after numerous collections of specimens were found lying in the Kariandusi riverbed.
7: Nyeri Museum
Nyeri Museum is a national monument which was once used as a 'Native law court'. It was built in 1924 and started functioning in 1925. Its main objective was to deal with customary law cases, previously dealt with by clan elders in the villages. As these cases increased, one courtroom could not handle the volume and thus another hall was built. The cases were divided among the two courts, with the first court dealing with civil cases like pregnancy and debtor cases, and the second one dealing with criminal cases like theft and murder. Nyeri museum was gazetted as a national property on 9th March 2001.
The first law court is unique in the sense that the seats are inbuilt and concrete, with those on which the judges used to sit being slightly raised, giving the sense of authority.
8: Olorgesailie pre-historic site
Located along Magadi road, an hour’s drive and 70kms away from Nairobi, Olorgesailie pre-historic site is world renowned as the “factory of stone tools”, and has the largest number in the world. The prominence and accumulation of human tools represents actual camping places of early men, and evidence that human species had a tropical origin. The site is in a lake basin that existed about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Olorgesailie has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man. Orlogesailie was gazetted as an archaeological site on 12th June 1970.
Researchers, Dr. and Mrs. Leakey started investigations on the site in 1942, where they found important evidence concerning the habits and activities of early prehistoric peoples of the Acheuleus or “Hand axe” culture.
9: Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site
Thimlich Ohinga literally refers to a “frightening dense forest” in Dholuo language, a Nilotic group who occupy the region. The stone structure enclosure has walls ranging from 1.0 to 4.2 meters in height, which were built of loose stones and blocks without any dressing or mortar.
Archaeological records of materials found within the site go back beyond 500 years ago. Since the present inhabitants of the area arrived probably some three centuries ago, it seems most likely that Bantus, who initially occupied this region prior to the arrival of Luos, first built the stone structures. Abundant rocks on the hilly areas provided them with building materials to meet their security requirements.