Celebrating International Museum Day: The Evolution of Museums as Agents of Change

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In honor of International Museum Day, the Stellenbosch University Museum is highlighting the transformative role of museums in society. From simply protecting artifacts to becoming powerful agents of change, museums have evolved over the years.

Fostering Dialogue and Promoting Inclusivity

According to Bongani Mgijima, the museum’s director, museums now serve as spaces for debate and discussion. They foster dialogic relationships with their audiences and promote inclusivity in society.

Contesting Histories and Challenging Traditional Notions

A recent discussion hosted by the Stellenbosch University Museum featured Professor Leslie Witz of the University of the Western Cape. Witz explained that many post-1994 museums have become spaces for contesting histories and challenging traditional notions of the past and future.

This aligns with this year’s International Museum Day theme, Museums, Sustainability, and Well-being, which highlights the potential of museums to create positive change.

Privately Funded Museums: New Opportunities for Dialogue and Engagement

In South Africa, there has been a decline in the number of museum openings following the transition to democracy. However, a new trend has emerged with museums increasingly relying on philanthropic support.

Privately funded museums offer intriguing opportunities for dialogue and engagement. For example, the recently renovated George Museum partners with local artists and art organizations to host events and exhibitions.

Inclusive Spaces Reflecting Diverse Histories

Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport Anroux Marais envisions museums as inclusive spaces that reflect the histories of diverse communities. The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport collaborates with the Library service on the Oral History Project, capturing local people’s stories as video clips to allow for a genuine representation of communities and their experiences.

Empowering Youth and Acquiring New Skills

The Department is committed to assisting youth by offering first employment experiences across the province. Initiatives like YearBeyond and the Expanded Public Works Programme are being implemented to provide meaningful work experiences and skills development.

Young people bring new skills and enthusiasm to museums, and in turn, acquire new abilities in a working environment.

The Ongoing Transformation of Museums

The Stellenbosch University Museum is actively participating in these changes, with the upcoming formal renaming of the RW Wilcocks Building to the Krotoa Building to coincide with Africa Month and a related exhibition.

As museums continue to evolve, they transform into dynamic platforms for fostering dialogue, challenging historical perspectives, and promoting inclusivity in society. This ongoing transformation showcases the versatility and adaptability of museums and their essential role in engaging communities and fostering positive change.

Environmentalist and Outdoor Enthusiast. Amanda is a nature-loving, energetic, and enthusiastic environmentalist who has dedicated her life to exploring and protecting Cape Town's stunning natural landscapes. She is an experienced hiker, wildlife enthusiast, and advocate for sustainable tourism.

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