The history of the museum in Kenya can be traced to a group of 10 individuals comprising scientists and amateur naturalists who met in March 25, 1909 to discuss the formation of a natural history society of East Africa.
The venue of the meeting was the home of Lieutenant F.J. Jackson, then Governor of Nairobi. At that meeting the East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society was born. It has since been renamed the East African Natural History Society (EANHS).
The first members of this Society included Blayney Percival, Rev. Harry Leakey, Louis Leakey’s father, Rev. Kenneth St. Aubyn Rogers, C.W. Hobley and John Ainsworth, both government officials, doctors, dentists, big game hunters and plantation owners.
The Society rented an office in a building at the centre of Nairobi where Nyayo House stands today, for 1 rupee a year. The building was erected for the Society by Mr. Aladina Visram.
Within this office was set up a room measuring 30 by 25 feet and another smaller one reserved for committee meetings. This room became the first museum in Kenya and it was called the Museum of Natural History, with Mr. T.J. Anderson, a Senior Entomologist in the Agricultural department, as its first honorary curator.
It was not until 1914 when the Museum of Natural History got its first paid full-time Curator, Mr. Arthur Loveridge, a herpetologist, to run its daily affairs. Mr. Loveridge’s stint as Curator was short-lived as he shortly enlisted in the army when World War I broke out and a group of volunteer workers took over its running.
By 1920, the rented room had become too small for the growing collection of material by the members to fit. Fortunately by then, the society had raised enough funds to put up a larger building on Kirk Road (presently Valley Road) where the Nairobi Serena Hotel stands today.
By this time numerous archaeological finds had been made around Kenya and there was already discussion to extend the museum’s mandate beyond natural history. This necessitated a second expansion project which in 1929 was realised when the colonial government donated 15 acres of land at Ainsworth Hill, which is present day Museum hill, and reacquired the Valley Road property.
The newly constructed facility at Museum Hill became known as the Coryndon Museum. This makes the core of the present day Nairobi National Museum. Meanwhile additions such as the Kariandusi Museum near Lake Elementaita and numerous others across the country were also coming up.
For further reading, you can head over to www.enzimuseum.org. They have a comprehensive chronology covering over a century of the museum’s growth in Kenya.