Being 21 is often a time for celebration but not for Fish Hoek museum. The lease of the museum has come up for renewal and the museum’s trustees are wondering whether the museum should shut down.
The small band of volunteers who quietly look after the museum are respectfully dismayed.
Presbyterian Church. People are interested in the stories. I tell them about the pirate ship that came here before the first farm to fill their water bottles and get wine.
“I majored in history at university, I was a history teacher and history is my passion,” he said. “Meeting people and talking to them and answering their queries is just up my street.”
Museum trustee Mike Walker, author of several local history books, said that there was a possibility of moving everything in the museum to Simon’s Town museum.
“It’s a good facility, they have permanent staff and they are keen,” he said. “But the trustees cannot move the museum to Simon’s Town without knowing what the people of Fish Hoek feel.”
He said that the trustees had no verifiable information on how well-used the museum was because the museum didn’t keep an entry register.
“I have been told the schools come here on a regular basis and I was here 12 to 15 times researching my Cape Point farms book, but we don’t know what the traffic is like.”
Trustee Eddie Wesselo said that the museum needed support from Fish Hoek people who didn’t know what it contained. It needed more volunteers as well as trustees – they did not have the full complement of trustees and another three were resigning at the end of the year.
Fritz Bing, another trustee, said that the museum had started because of a shared passion but if they didn’t get more volunteers, trustees or sponsorship, the museum was not sustainable.
“We have to bear the cost of repairs and we need quite a lot of money. The R47 000 we have in our account is just petty cash,” he said, mentioning the leaking roof.
“The museum is a private museum and needs finance and manpower,” said Commander Wesselo. “If people don’t want the museum to move they must make a contribution.”
Alan Lindner of the Fish Hoek Historical Society said that a move to Simon’s Town would be Plan B. Plan A would be to reposition the museum.
“Its key weakness is that it has no general management to implement the operational programmes that a museum would ordinarily do to attract visitors and keep itself relevant,” he said.
If there were funds for a curator and an educator, the museum could easily feed into the current school curriculum.
He said that signage, marketing and encouraging group visits via train and bus were all solutions that should be considered.
“The museum’s strength is its collection, if used or levered effectively,” he said.
The museum is in Central Circle, Fish Hoek, on the clinic/tennis courts side of the parking lot at the Fish Hoek civic centre. It is in what used to be a house and is the only place were old Echo newspapers – from the first issue – can be found.
The artefacts in the museum obviously go further back than that august day more than 60 years ago of the first Echo, and the Peers cave room includes a wall-long painting by the Fish Hoek Art Society of life in Peers Cave 500 000 years ago. Artefacts are displayed on the walls and includes a beautifully constructed old wooden cabinet donated by researcher and writer Dr EE Mossop containing his collection of stone age artefacts.
Not quite as old but pretty impressive is a clay pipe bowl found by Fish Hoek resident Lewis Walter on the dunes along Silvermine River. Research accurately dated the pipe as having been made between 1734 and 1740 by Thomas Souffree, in Gouda in the Netherlands.
The museum’s collection ranges from a political poster of Nicki Holderness when she ran as an independent and a poster for when Thabo Mbeki had a public meeting at Sun Valley Primary, to old accounting machines used in the Caltex garage as part of the stock system at Triange Garage in 1948, in those heady days when there were no computers and people had to write and remember things.
A favourite room for schoolchildren – besides the oversized mayoral chair Mr Spence mentioned – is the room where they are allowed touch and play with things. There are whalebones and an enticing collection of shells in a trunk. Primary school children doing the regular shell identification project could do well to look at the wall display of many seashells, all categorised and identified.
But this fascinating collection could be lost to Fish Hoek unless the people in the area really want it, and are prepared to help in some way.
“Come and look and make suggestions. You will be assured of a great welcome,” said Mr Walker.
What are your thoughts? Please write to the museum on email@example.com, phone Sally on 076 662 3500 or 021 785 2386, or pop into the museum on Tuesdays to Fridays from 8.30am to 12.30pm.