Our museums, our heritage | Western Cape Government

Our museums, our heritage

Museums in the Western CapeMuseums are institutions that conserves a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance. They preserve our natural and cultural history and give us a glimpse of a bygone era and also celebrates human achievement. 

Museums make history visible and engage and educate the community. Schools benefit from museums that enhance their curriculum. Visiting museums gives us a better understanding of our history, our fellow citizens and our world.

In the Western Cape we have many different types of museums.  

The Western Cape Museum Policy outlines that the main purpose of museums then becomes “to protect and preserve our heritage as a whole. Through their collections and associated material, they make a unique and positive contribution to society by:

  • Providing opportunities for learning.
  • Enabling the use of collections and associated information to expand human knowledge.
  • Stimulating creativity and the spirit of enquiry.
  • Providing a sense of pride of place and social cohesion and inclusion.
  • Supporting local economies through tourism and by creating a local identity.
  • Offering opportunities for personal development for individuals and communities to develop, a better understanding of their role in society, pride in their heritage and appreciation of cultural diversity,
  • Creating a sense of security at times of change in society.
  • Entertaining and educating visitors.

Museums therefore:

  • Help people to understand the world by using objects and ideas to interpret the past and present, and explore the future.
  • Preserve and research collections, and make objects and information accessible in actual and virtual environments.
  • Are established in the public interest as permanent, not-for-profit organisations that contribute long-term value to communities.
  • Are supported by volunteers (individuals and organisations) and society.”

Explore our museums

Find and explore our museums

Use our Living Atlas to see all of our museums and find out more about each facility.

Find out more about our province’s rich cultural and traditional heritage by visiting some of our treasured museums:

CP Nel Museum, OudtshoornMuseums in the Western Cape

The CP Nel Museum is a towering sandstone colonial building located in the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. The C.P. Nel Museum is also the only museum with a Synagogue inside, which is still in use. The museum houses a collection of art once owned by businessman Colonel Charles Paul Leonard Nel, and features an extensive natural history museum section.

District 6 Museum, Cape Town

The District Six Museum houses an impressive collection of historical materials including photographs, paintings, artifacts, and physical remains like street signs, books and studies as well as audio-visual recordings of District 6, most which were donated by its former residents.      

South African Museum, Cape Town

The South African museum founded in 1825 is situated in the historic Company’s Gardens, Cape Town. The museum attracts many visitors daily who comes to see the museums vast historical collections, which ranges from fossils to ancient species and historical tools. 

Old Harbour Museum, Hermanus

The Old Harbour Museum conserves and protects the heritage of the Greater Hermanus. The museum displays the Overstrand town's fishing history, and it displays artifacts related to the region's whaling history. 

Slave Lodge Museum, Cape Town 

The Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. It was opened in 1998, under the umbrella theme, “From human wrongs to human rights”, and its exhibitions explore the long history of slavery in South Africa. 

Stellenbosch Museum, Stellenbosch

The Stellenbosch Museum, situated in the centre of town, gives visitors a chance to step back into time and receive a glimpse of how people in the 18th century lived. The museum consists of 3 colonial homes, each decorated and furnished to resemble a typical colonial home. Tour guides are also dressed in 18th century attire. 

The South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town

The South African Jewish Museum houses a range of interactive displays, audio-visual presentations and rare and fascinating artifacts depicting the cultural history of Jews, Jewish life and Judaism in South Africa. The museum is also home to one of the finest collections of Netsuke (Japanese miniature art).

Museums in the Western Cape

West Coast Fossil Park, Vredenburg 

Travel back in time when you visit the West Coast Fossil Park. You’ll be able to see the fossils of bears, sabre-tooth cats, short-necked giraffes and the many other exotic animals which inhabited the west coast area some 5 million years ago.

Worcester Museum, Worcester 

This is an open-air cultural and historical exhibit where visitors can experience the lifestyle of a bygone pastoral era. Visitors can watch skilled blacksmiths, cartwrights, cheese makers and see how witblits (a potent traditional form of alcohol) is distilled. Depending on the season, it’s possible to watch grape harvesting, sheep shearing, and medicinal veld plants being collected.

Our museums give us a better understanding of our past so that we can embrace and respect others. They also encourage the next generation to commemorate the past, celebrate the present and build strong foundations for the future. Take your friends and family and start exploring our province’s rich heritage at one of our museums.

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The content on this page was last updated on 23 May 2019