The oldest and finest surviving wood carvings gathered from various places across Africa were housed along side with the Ekpu Oron. Ekpu Oron is the ancestral spirit of Oron in an ancestral shrine in Oron, this shrine was starting to decay, since some of the carving are believed to be more than three centuries old and there was need for a new place of refuge and safety for the wooden carving and the treasured ancestral spirit, this led to the opening of the museum by K.C. Murray. The museum became open to the public on the 7th of December, 1959.
The museum is located in Oron, Akwa-ibom state, very close to the Oron River, which one can see from the museum. The museum was the first to be opened in the east of Nigeria which made it part of the first five museums in Nigeria; the museum contains two large rectangle galleries divided by a hand-made raffia screen and the galleries serve the purpose of exhibiting the art collections.
The museum is divided into sections: from the carved wooden figures section to the pottery (Ishibori) and masquerade (Ekpe) to the traditional materials to the local instrument section, each of which contains monuments unique to most of ethnic groups in Akwa-ibom like the Ibibios, Annangs and the oron people; the items in the museum help in celebrating the cultural heritage of this ethnic groups, their history and origin.
Oron museum contained more than six hundred wooden carving most of which was destroyed or stolen during the civil war but it was rebuilt with the help of Keith Nicklin in 1971, the carvings were brought back to Oron museum from Umuahia, where it was taken to for refuge in 1976; till today the museum still has relics of the civil war like the Ojukwu Bunker.
ART WORKS AT ORON MUSEUM
- THE STONE SCULPTURE OF KEITH NICKLIN: Keith Nicklin is a British anthropologist that helped in rebuilding the museum after civil war, his statue is right outside of the museum towards the Oron river and it has a beautifully cut lawn surrounding it.
- ANCESTRAL SPIRIT OF ORON (EKPU ORON): This Ekpu Oron serves as a place of a refuge for the spirit of a dead man, Oron people usually calls a dead person’s spirit into a wooden sculpture, they believe a dead man becomes part of the ancestors by doing that, then the spirits will continue to be involve in the activities of the living; sacrifices are usually offered to Ekpu Oron during special celebration to appease or thank them.
- CARVED WOODEN HOUSE POST (OHAFFIA): This was obtained from Igbo-Obu hall by KC Murray, the house post is usually used in Igbo land to decorate the house of a prominent chief of the Ohaffia community.
- OJUWKU BUNKER: The bunker was used during the civil war by Biafra soldiers as a hiding place and it is from here they fire at the Nigeria soldiers. This bunker till today still has an effigy of a soldier in it.
- CARVED PAINTED WOODEN FIGURE (NWA-EKPO): This wooden figure represents an Ibibio young woman that is just coming out of the fattening room about to get married.
- Other items at the museum include: Wooden carved Skin covered mask (Oyumana), the Ibibio-Ekpo wooden mask, Obasi-Njom masquerade, Calabar Ekpe wooden mask, craft village within the museum, metal works of different kinds, a craft shop, Annang-Ibibio funerary shrine art and painted wooden figure (Ebieke).