Preservation with regards culture heritage involves activities associated with maintaining library, archival, or museum materials for use, either in their original physical form or in some other format. It is the protection of cultural property through activities that minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to prolong the existence of cultural property.
A heritage comprises legendary artifacts, history, cultural relics and monuments of our forefathers that are being preserved for generations yet unborn to learn from the past-be it good or bad.
By preserving our cultural heritage since the dark days of slavery to colonialism and up to present day will go a long way in explaining our rich cultural, political, social and educational values to generations yet unborn. In retrospect, Sierra Leone as a sovereign state have much in treasure to share and exhibit to the outside world in terms of cultural, historical heritage, relics of slavery and the slave trade and colonialism respectively.
Before Pedro da Cintra anchored on the shores of Sierra Leone in 1462, people have been practicing their rich cultural heritage. Practices such as the architectural structure of our houses (hut), marriage patterns, the governance system, our dancing styles, the clothes we wore and importantly our justice system all manifest the idiosyncratic and unique heritage of Sierra Leonean.
In preserving our heritage, slavery and relics of slaves are abounding in specific sites in our country. Places such as Bunce Island, Banana Island, Kent village, King Jimmy, King Tom etc host relics like slave’s fort and slave’s chains and cuffs, battle mortars and ships can be found in some of these areas. In Freetown, places like King Jimmy market steps; the jetties and slaves dungeons at Government wharf steps, the present NASSIT building (former Admiralty Court established by the British Naval Squadron to track down slavers and slaves’ ship owners); the historic Cotton Tree and other notable sites can be used in showcasing our historical heritage.
Our National Museum is another place where artifacts, carvings and sketches of our rich cultural heritage are being preserved. Today much cannot be seen to portray our heritage. In preserving our heritage, both school children and outsiders alike will learn our culture and play active role in propagating it to the world. Also in preserving our heritage, the importance of the historic Cotton Tree located at the City centre cannot go unnoticed. Infact, the name Cotton Tree is almost synonymous to the name Freetown. The Cotton tree is also symbolic and marked the genesis of our hard won freedom yearned for by our forefathers. Its very presence there and its proximity to the Sierra Leone Judiciary building on Siaka Stevens Street present the spiritual aura of people long yearned for freedom and hope. The Law Court presented a sacred and sacrosanct picture of our justice system then but completely different now.
Moreover, the establishment of learning institutions that was meant to be for our own development for freed people, the gradual establishments of institutions like C.M.S Grammar school in 1825 as the first boy’s school in Sub- Saharan Africa and The Annie Walsh Memorial School for girls in 1849 followed by the development of Fourah Bay College which was once known as the ‘Athens’ of West Africa was established in 1827 by the Christian Missionary Society(C.M.S) for training pastors and catechists in disseminating the Christian faith and education. These places must be revisited technically to showcase the purpose (s) they were established for.
In essence, digging into the past and bringing them to the fore would help our Colonial lords and Sierra Leoneans alike to reminisce on how we became connected in our interrelated cultural, political, social and economic exchanges. Preserving our heritage is more so important in meeting some of the requirements for the forthcoming independence celebration in April for the Queen of England to learn and take home.
The importance cannot be overemphasized: Cultural heritage affirms our identity as a people because it creates a comprehensive framework for the preservation of cultural heritage including cultural sites, old buildings, monuments, shrines, and landmarks that have cultural significance and historical value. As human we can ensures effective coordination among concerned agencies in order to avert the diminution, depletion and destruction of the country's cultural heritage. This should be aimed at by instituting mechanisms for better management of cultural properties such as creation of categories and privileges for cultural properties, institutionalization of heritage zones, and documentation of traditional and contemporary arts. We must stress the importance of preserving the country's irreplaceable cultural and historical possessions, as well as inculcating among Sierra Leonean the importance of protecting our heritage. Culture and its heritage reflect and shape values, beliefs, and aspirations, thereby defining a people's national identity. There is a serious need for us to know deeply and celebrate our national heritage. It is important to preserve our cultural heritage, because it keeps our integrity as a people.
Preserving our culture is significant as it is a manifestation of the freedom of belief and of expression. It is a human right and must be accorded due respect and allowed to flourish. We must protect our cultural heritage strongly, effectively, and unambiguously because while campaigns for eco-tourism has focused on the country's beautiful beaches and resorts, the cultural and historical heritage are virtually ignored and much of these important and irreplaceable structures have given way to modernization (NASSIT Pension House-Walpole Street) and commercialization (King Jimmy), and its rich repository of our culture is literally becoming a thing of the past.
Let forget the cultural neglect habit, as some cultural heritages were and are not protected, preserved, conserved and promoted adequately and effectively. This can be illustrated through a number of examples where we repeatedly saw cultural neglect. The country has painfully witnessed the defacement, if not complete destruction of buildings and other historically or artistically significant structures, bridges, parks and other public spaces or landscapes. Catholic churches have been unsystematically renovated, and relieved of precious and significant materials such as beautifully wrought religious images of ivory, and wood, relives, even the silver frontals of altars. The Freetown clock tower was renovated defacing the artistic stone works for modern tile and clock.
Preservation of cultural heritage is important for the increased need of integration and expertise into higher education. Linking the university curriculum with cultural heritage in an interdisciplinary way is integral to further promote the importance of heritage for a sustainable future. Through teachings, the need for joint cooperation between professionals and academics to achieve common goals will come out vividly.
There should be an ardent need to provide continuous training and education in all fields of conservation, enhance the work of institutions to foster professional talent, and address capacity building and training requirements. This should be aimed at bringing together educators, professionals, students, policy and decision makers, community stakeholders from around the community to contribute to the enrichment of our culture and to learn more about it.
Nonetheless, in preserving our heritage, the ruined relics of slave’s forts, jetties and dungeons at Government wharf, Bunce Island and Banana Island and other important cultural and historical places should be refurbished and preserved for tourists’ attraction. Similarly, the era of slavery and colonialism were not too apart. Thus, the former was being characterized by suffering in the form of slavery and the slave trade; whilst the latter portrays a gleam of hope and semblance of freedom.
Investing in the preservation of our cultural heritage would prevent cultural bankruptcy in the future; if we continue allowing our cultural heritage to be tampered by forces-both human and non-human, then its importance cannot be realized. If we wake up now to the brink of realization and stamp out all malpractices thereby curbing cultural heritage challenges then we continue to enjoy cultural heritage propensity but on the other hand if we do not then posterity will judge us because as the tree is bent so grows the tree!