The Hout Bay Museum, which will be 44 years old next month, is in a post-pandemic financial pinch and struggling to survive, according to the chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, Susan Ball.
On a tour of the four buildings that make up the museum precinct, she spoke about the problems it faces in the hope of mustering local support.
The province-aided museum opened on April 5, 1979, according to Jonathan “Jonty” Dreyer who has managed it for 16 years.
Located between Andrews and St Anthony’s roads, in Scott Estate, the museum precinct is also home to the Denis Goldberg House of Hope, an arts-and-culture education centre for children and youth, which opened in April last year.
Debbie Budlender, manager of the centre, was about to teach a group high school pupils about artificial intelligence when the Sentinel caught up with her.
“There is a three-way agreement between the board of trustees of the museum, the Denis Goldberg Trust and the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport whereby we have a 99-year lease on part of the museum’s land,” said Ms Budlender.
Ms Ball said the museum also contributed to the salary of a coordinator for the House of Hope and two province-funded expanded public works programme employees.
In the museum building, assistant manager Jerome Abrahams spoke about the displays that track the history of the Hout Bay valley and its people. They cover forestry, fishing and poaching, mining and modern-day issues around housing, land, hunger and protests.
Mr Dreyer said the museum hoped to reclaim the remains of a Khoi woman and her baby – discovered in Llandudno and currently with Iziko Museum in the Company’s Garden – and the Kronendal slave bell at the Castle of Good Hope.
Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport spokeswoman Tania Colyn said the department gave the museum a total annual subsidy of R700 000 for operational requirements and salaries, and while reduced visitor numbers, both during and after the pandemic, had starved museums of entry fees, the department had given relief funding to museums since 2020, including a total of more than R180 000 to the Hout Bay Museum over the past two financial years.
The department had also encouraged museums to hold their own fund-raisers, she said.
But Ms Ball said the museum would need support from the community to do that.
“We are keen to restart our monthly evening fireside chats, which used to be a popular community event before the pandemic. And we would like to restart the regular hikes although security could be an issue, but they could host historic walks around the suburb. We also rent out the hall for weddings, meetings, yoga, art and ballet.”
Ms Budlender said the House of Hope was also worth seeing in its own right.
“It represents the realisation of the dream of the late Denis Goldberg, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial, alongside Nelson Mandela and six others. We have two permanent exhibitions – one on Denis’s life and the other of the colourful paintings that Denis collected and that were displayed in his house. The building is also available for hire during most mornings and evenings.”
The centre offers holiday programmes, hip-hop classes, pottery courses, and choir on five days a week at no charge.
Mr Goldberg, who died in 2020, lived long enough to participate in the turning of the sod for the building and saw the handing over of the site to the builders.
If you can help the museum, contact the manager at 021 790 3270, 021 791 0616, or 084 666 6970.