After the burglary at Museum Africa, which occurred over the weekend between the evening of 30 October and 1 November 2020, the MMC for Community Development, Cllr Margaret Arnolds expressed concern over the various incidents of theft, vandalism and burglary to City facilities. The City has observed that increasingly there are anti-social and criminal acts that are visited upon public facilities.
After the break-in, museum management acted immediately in reporting the burglary to the police and immediately lodged an insurance claim, and an assessor was sent to the museum to assess the damage. Having noticed that the floors on the western side of the building were water- logged, a clean-up operation was commissioned to dry the area up over several days.
A general assessment was conducted, and this was followed by a more detailed assessment whereby each of the museum curators were requested to assess the damage and the associated risk within their respective collections. No heritage items were stolen, but the burglars took a tap on the fourth floor, causing flooding in the building. Some items in the heritage collection that were water damaged have been identified and recorded as such.
Most of the affected items are from the Bensusan Photographic Collection which in total amounted to about 111. There are also 7 items from the images collection that were affected.
A process of de-framing these artworks was conducted under the guidance of the museum Conservator in preparation of the restoration process. All these items were removed and isolated with the guidance of the Conservator. Further, the Conservator advised on the approach to be followed to prevent further damage to the items, as well as restoration of the same, and immediately started with the process.
There are also non-heritage items from the Geology and Images collections that were affected which comes to a total of about 73. Regarding the mould that was visible only on the furniture items that have been water-damaged, the Conservator introduced measures to remove the mould and minimise the spread. It was also observed that where there are still traces of mould, it has already dried up and therefore does not pose a major risk of spreading throughout the facility. There are no heritage items that are under risk of mould infestation at this stage.
While it is true that there are some challenges at the museum, these are being attended to. Museum Africa is working under the guidance of the Conservator to find ways of minimizing further damage to the affected items. In the wake of the burglary, there has been much correspondence raising concerns to the Director, the MMC and the Executive Mayor in the City. All the correspondence to the Director was responded to individually to the interested parties. Some of the information circulated has unfortunately been marked by inaccuracies and gross exaggerations.
The MMC, Cllr Margaret Arnolds would like to urge all stakeholders to desist from spreading falsehoods about the museum and the state of the collection and to rely on verified facts from the City.
The second intervention facilitated by the Chief Curator was to invite all these interested parties for a walkabout and an information session to address concerns in the heritage community, and at the same time to correct some inaccuracies relating to the extent of the damage and the City’s response to this matter. The meeting was scheduled to take place on Wednesday 30 December 2020 and this meeting has since been postponed to a later date still to be determined.
The postponement of the meeting took into account the unavailability of some interested parties, and particularly the Presidential announcements on Monday 28 December 2020 wherein the country moved to Level 3 for 14 days. The MMC for Community Development has since requested officials at Arts, Culture & Heritage to invite all stakeholders and members of the media to a walk-about to be facilitated as soon as Level 3 regulations end.
It must be noted that the department has provided responses to stakeholders as part of our open door policy and all parties are encouraged to refrain from exaggerating issues based on false
Issued on behalf of: Cllr Margaret Sheron Arnolds, MMC for Community Development
For media enquiries contact; Mr Loyiso Jantjies, Deputy Director: Strategic Support. Mobile: 083 607 6176 | Email: LoyisoJ@Joburg.org.za