Where do you go when you want to know about human origins, San lifestyles, Mandela’s struggle years, contemporary art, 18th century Dutch masters, the history of photography, military history, air travel in the thirties, the geology of the Witwatersrand, the saga of space exploration, the history of apartheid , the rare botanical specimens, or the history of medicine? You choose a museum and if you live in a city you are blessed with a choice of museums. In Johannesburg there are over forty museums, large and small. Museums need your support now more than ever.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has joined with concerned museums to resuscitate, revive, reinvigorate and reimagine the museums, archives and libraries of the City. The Johannesburg Manifesto has been developed and is circulating and we invite heritage enthusiasts to endorse the manifesto. Museums are the lifeblood of the city; to survive and thrive Museums need visitors and patronage. Public, business and private support must be forthcoming to save our museums. We need to be enthusiastic and energetic to back our museums.
This Manifesto has relevance for all Museums throughout South Africa. This is not just a Joburg problem.
Covid has hit our museums hard as visitor numbers dropped and the doors closed. Museums, libraries and archives are the repositories of our heritage and our past. Unlike private collections our museums, galleries and archives belong to all of us and are accessible to all. Museums are for people of all ages. Many are in the public domain. Museums are a teaching resource for our children; museums are places of research; museums are tourist nodes for any city. Museums sell our city and our country.
But museums and public galleries are fragile - they can be easily lost to fire, flood or neglect. Museums die if there are no visitors. Museums need qualified staff to curate and care for priceless collections. Museums need reliable funding. We need a sustainable future for our museums.
Now is the time to shout out loud about museums and their value. The Johannesburg Manifesto sets out the case for our museums and why this is a watershed moment.
Please read the Manifesto and endorse it (click here to do so). Save the list of our museums and plan a visit.
Main image: Liliesleaf (The Heritage Portal)
Kathy Munro for the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation