The history of the museum in Kenya can be traced to a group of 10 individuals comprising scientists and amateur naturalists who met on 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 were 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, they set up a 30 by 25 feet room and another smaller one reserved for committee meetings. The room became the first museum in Kenya, the Museum of Natural History. Mr T.J. Anderson, a Senior Entomologist in the Agricultural department, became its first honorary curator.
It was not until 1914 that the Museum of Natural History got its first paid full-time Curator. Mr Arthur Loveridge, a herpetologist, ran its daily affairs. Mr Loveridge’s had a short-lived stint as Curator as he soon enlisted in the army. World War I had broken out and a group of volunteer workers took over the museum’s running.
By 1920, the rented room had become too small for the growing collection of materials by the members to fit. Fortunately, by then, the society had raised enough funds. They put up a larger building on Kirk Road (presently Valley Road). Today, the Nairobi Serena Hotel occupies that space.
By this time numerous archaeological finds came up around Kenya. Already a discussion to extend the museum’s mandate beyond natural history was going on. This necessitated a second expansion project realised in 1929. The colonial government donated 15 acres of land at Ainsworth Hill, present-day Museum hill. They also 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.