Medical museum is a hidden gem in the city

Director of the Cape Medical Museum, Kholiwe Dubula, in one of its rooms showing the old equipment.

If you blink you might miss the Cape Medical Museum in Green Point, but the museum hopes to change that.

The museum, which is on the doorstep of the V&A Waterfront and run by the provincial government, was started by a group of professional doctors in 1981 and opened officially in June 1986.

The museum was originally the home of the superintendent of the City Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

“You can see that this house was not a part of the hospital because in each room there is a fireplace. The building is more than 100 years old,” said museum director, Kholiwe Dubula.

Zahid Badroodien is a junior doctor who joined the museum management committee recently. He said he had been “pleasantly surprised” to discover it and he wants others to have the same experience.

“What we have here is a collection of the development, progress and improvement of medicine in Cape Town. Not only Cape Town but South Africa because essentially 100 years ago Cape Town was the doorway to the rest of South Africa. It’s sad for me that Cape Town with two medical faculties and hundreds of doctors don’t know about this facility.

“It’s under-appreciated and under-supported.”

He said it was important to preserve this pocket of history for future generations, so that they understood the importance of science, maths, medicine and a culture of caring for others.

“That’s what this building embodies. You are stepping into a 100-year-old building, it is basically a time machine with things left unchanged.

“It is inspiring because it excites you. If you have a passion for the undiscovered, want to learn more and think you want to study medicine, come to the museum.”

Ms Dubula said children were very excited when they visited the museum.

“We are encouraged to teach, exhibit, tell stories. We always make sure that we give this to the people and invite the schools.”

The museum programme includes the history of medicine, the history of the museum itself and the history of traditional and Khoisan medicine.

MsDubulaencouraged residents to become Friends of the Museum – there are 21 at the moment and Dr Badroodien is one of them.

“We need to ask the community for support,” he said. “Come and support us and become a friend of the museum.

“We need to recognise, appreciate and Africanise the museum so that it celebrates the roots of where medicine started on the continent. Not just to say here is what the British or Dutch brought us but this is what our Khoi, Xhosa and Zulu have brought to the development of medicine. That is the way forward now.”

Two weeks ago, the museum was the venue for a Junior Doctors’ Association of South Africa gathering, and the museum hosts other general events.

“We want people to come on board and tell us how we can improve the museum and bring their friends.

“That way we can get word about the museum out. Gone are the days you must drive to the V&A Waterfront and see the signs but miss it,” said Dr Badroodien.

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