Presidential Node Project: Transformation of the Beaufort West Museum | Western Cape Government


Presidential Node Project: Transformation of the Beaufort West Museum

12 September 2006
A community's heritage is part of its identity. The role of museums is to create opportunities for individual and communities to identify who they are in the world. The purpose of this presidential node project is to transform the Beaufort West Museum into an institution where previously marginalized communities can discover their identity and in so doing, contribute towards the national and provincial directives of building social and human capital. The project will seek to collect, document, interpret and conserve the heritage of the people of the Central Karoo region. It will be based on scientific as well as community-based research thus allowing multiple voices into the knowledge base of the museum. Working within the thematic scope of the museum - "The History of the Beaufort Karoo, famous people of the region and the role of the church", much can be done to transform the way in which this theme is interpreted and presented to the public. Research will focus on community origins, history and identity through the study and investigation of the following themes:

•  Paleontology (in partnership with Iziko Museums of Cape Town and the Karoo National Park )

•  Archaeology

•  The mission church, and focusing on the congregation rather than on the missionaries

•  Development of infrastructure in the region (local history)

•  Local heroes or icons of Beaufort West and surroundings

•  Contemporary history and popular memory


The project was introduced to the people of Beaufort West at a public meeting held on 28 March 2006. The Western Cape Education Department's local management in the region was briefed on the project and how it can support the curriculum. Arrangements were made to present outreach education programmes in schools. The Museum Service developed Teaching and learning materials. During May 2006 o ral history and family history education programmes, i.e. the theory of oral history interviews, interview skills and a practical session, were presented at the following schools:


  • Laerskool Merweville Gr 7 10 learners
  • St Matthews Primêre Skool Gr 7 108 learners
  • JD Crawford Primêre Skool Gr 7 107 learners
  • Layton Primêre Skool Gr 5-7 16 learners
  • Leeu-Gamka Primêre Skool Gr 7 61 learners
  • Murraysburg Primêre Skool Gr 7 119 learners
  • Restvale Primêre Skool Gr 7 38 learners
  • George Fredericks Primêre Skool Gr 7 32 learners
  • AH Barnard Primêre Skool Gr 7 132 learners
  • AH Barnard Primêre Skool Gr 5 32 learners
  • Teske Gedenk Primêre Skool Gr 7 75 learners (at the museum)


On International Museum Day, 18 May 2006, Grades 11 and 12 learners competed in a debate on "My heritage" at the Beaufort West Museum . In the meanwhile, Museum Scientific Service staff is pursuing research on the aforementioned themes.


During September 2006 the Beaufort West Museum will mount an exhibition of the memory projects done by the learners who participated in the education programmes. The Museum Service will collect and evaluate the work prior to the exhibition. It is hoped that a research assistant can be employed on a contract basis to start collecting and archiving oral history recordings in the latter part of the year.


The following members of staff of Museum Service form the project team:

  • Pieter Schoonees - project leader
  • Tessa Davids - collections manager
  • Amanda Human - paleontology
  • Jaline de Villiers - archaeology and the built environment
  • Leon Vorster - mission church
  • Juna Malherbe - local heroes or icons and genealogy
  • Michael Jonas - contemporary history and popular memory

Michael Jonas, Jaline de Villiers, Juna Malherbe and Jeremy Jeptha presented the outreach education programmes. The above-mentioned staff is not exclusively dedicated to the project but is involved in many others as well. Staffs of the Beaufort West Museum are actively involved in the programme, particularly the Museum Manager, Sandra Smit.

The learners' projects will go a long way in identifying which heritage and conservation issues are important to the community. The museum's collection policy will then need to be reviewed and an active programme of collecting under-represented material will commence in conjunction with scholarly and community research. This is the basis upon which new exhibitions are constructed and it is envisaged that it will take at least three years before significant changes will be implemented at the Beaufort West Museum .


Beverley Thomas

Assistant Director: Museum Scientific Service
021 505 1534

Sandra Smit

Manager: Beaufort West Museum
023 415 2308

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