of the Education Museum
Collecting is one of the 5 main functions of a Museum
Why do we collect?
Our aim is to provide an integrated and representative overview of educational history in the Cape, both through the collection of artefacts and through the displays exhibited.
Artefacts and information are documented and preserved for future generations, and the collection is made available through educational activities, during the course of which children are able to experience and utilize suitable material in such a way as to make their understanding of the past concrete, as well as to promote conservation consciousness. The collection belongs to the people of South Africa, hence the motto: Non nobis solum: not for ourselves alone.
The Reference Library, documentary and photographic material may be used, under supervision, for research purposes and the collection is thus made accessible to a wider public, whose frequent queries are regularly addressed. Queries regarding the history of education in the Western Cape have increased considerably in the past few years, with over 340 enquiries handled between 2012 and 2018
We believe that our collection is of national importance. Its cultural and historical value is considerable, and selective expansion is required to enhance its representativeness. The interpretation of its particular features could be called upon to play a significant role in nation building as well as placing South Africa, and the Western Cape in particular, in its broader and international context. The Education Museum is part of an international group called School Museums and Histories of Education. It is internationally recognised, and its collection and education programmes much admired by the international museum community. It is also noted on the National Register of the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
What do we collect?
Our definition of artefacts includes furniture, teaching equipment, books, writing materials, photographs, documents and other items relating to the history of education. See Addendum A for full list. Our collection can be divided into two components:
• The permanent or core collection, which consists of some 7 400 items collected for their intrinsic value and uniqueness. All items are accessioned, properly preserved and stored, and are used for exhibitions and research.
• The teaching or handling collection, which consists of duplicate items that can be handled by school children during lessons, or which can be used to trade with other museums or private individuals. These constitute a further 1000 items.
Our core collection has the following elements:
1.1. The (Western) Cape
The main focus of the core collection is the school community served by the Cape Education Department from its inception in 1839 to that administered by the Western Cape Education Department at present. There is a particular but unintentional focus on the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, dictated by the availability of artefacts, rather than by design.
The entire collection has been assembled by donation and continues to grow and develop, with the specific object of serving as a teaching venue for all schools in order to sharpen conservation awareness as well as to promote a range of historical skills relating to the understanding of change and continuity, change over time, similarity and difference, and cause and effect – all of which are geared to the objectives of outcomes based education that forms the core of the new national curriculum introduced in 1998 and which is still relevant in the current Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).
1.2. Redressing imbalances
We acknowledge that our existing collection best reflects a fairly narrow and elitist layer of South African society. Much of this collection became available, and was assembled, as a result of the closure of significant numbers of schools that characterised the dying days of Apartheid’s ‘own affairs’ administration. In addition, significant holdings of valuable artefacts that had become redundant were obtained from schools that continued to exist.
The entire collection has been assembled via donations, as the Museum does not have the resources to purchase material. Consequently, the core of the collection of durable artefacts has been drawn from the period 1890 – 1960, the bulk being from the early years. More modern artefacts are invariably in short supply as they are essential to satisfy the needs of a burgeoning school-going population.
Nevertheless it is our intention to broaden the collection and the range of activities so as to accommodate the needs of the entire school-going community by covering a broader social spectrum and a wider time-span in order to redress present imbalances. In addition, information will be displayed both to highlight and to interpret significant issues such as the closing of some schools at a time when others were bursting at the seams.
Amongst areas to which it is proposed to give attention include the following:
● The impact of forced removals on schools
● Night schools
● Township schools, particularly Ndabeni and Langa
● Traditional informal education
● Mission and private schooling
● Farm schools
● Muslim schools
● Teacher education
Through this process we seek to promote environmental, social and cultural understanding. To this end, application was made in 2011 to the National Lottery Board for funding to make the collection more representative. A sum of just under R 500 000 has subsequently been made available (2013) for this purpose.
2. Our buildings
The buildings which we occupy, particularly the original Girls’ School of Industry (built 1844) which houses our Museum and is a Provincial Heritage Site, form part of our collection and are treated and interpreted in the same way as artefacts.
The more modern remaining buildings house a teaching venue; offices; a Reference Library; a hall for meetings, displays and conferences; a workshop where displays can be built; a garage for our GG vehicle; store rooms, caretaker’s room and grounds.
3. Related information and intangible culture
Explanatory and contextualising information increases the appreciation and understanding of artefacts. We therefore collect and document all possible information relating to our artefacts and steps are being taken to expand and develop further labelling for this purpose.
Resources pertinent to the teaching of Environmental Education in the broadest sense are also collected and employed in promoting an understanding of the interdependent nature of the relationship between mankind and the total environment.
4. The histories of Western Cape schools
It is our belief that every school’s history is worth documenting and celebrating. We have therefore begun a series of box files, where information and documentation of specific schools can be stored and made available to researchers or for exhibition purposes. Since 2011 we have also started an electronic database on the histories of schools, starting with the 19th century. This is augmented by an electronic photo file. These two items now make it much easier for visiting researchers to find relevant information. As the existence of these two databases have become known, more researchers have been coming to use the Centre for Conservation’s Reference Library.
How do we collect?
We augment our collection through donations, loans and exchanges with other institution. It is hoped that funds generated by the Centre for Conservation Education may be employed to enhance the collection. In the initial stages educational artefacts were collected as donations without particular regard to duplication. There were two reasons for this:
• Many schools were closing and there was a sense of urgency to preserve what might have been lost.
• Artefacts were required in numbers to facilitate interactive, hands-on teaching of visiting school groups and in order to create boxes of artefacts that could be sent to schools at more distant destinations.
Now that there is an established collection, the future focus will be upon the acquisition of artefacts whose representativeness as well as their research, educational and display potentials are paramount. Items of education’s more recent history can also be collected. The needs of the broader community are continually established and respected. These include the provision, on a regular basis, of information gleaned from research at the Museum.
Policy regarding donations and acquisitions:
The Education Museum is a member of the South African Museums Association (SAMA) and subscribes to its constitution and guiding principles. We are committed to internationally accepted documentation standards and our collecting, displays, conservation and education will be guided by international museum practice and the professional code of ethics as set out by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
1. All acquisitions will be in keeping with the Museum’s collection policy as stipulated in the aims and mission of the Museum.
2. The Museum collects furniture, teaching equipment, books, writing materials, toys, photographs, documents, uniforms and other memorabilia relating to the history of education. Refer to ADDENDUM A.
3. The Head, a responsible member of staff, or the Chair of the Advisory Committee reserves the right to accept or refuse donations according to the policy above.
4. Duplicates of artefacts must be considered for the teaching or handling collection.
5. The Museum will not accept donations with conditions attached regarding the display, storage or conservation of the item(s).
6. The Museum reserves the right to accept donations of material that do not fit in with the collections policy, but which might be useful to another museum.
7. All donors receive a letter of thanks, which also acts as a receipt. Copies of these letters are kept on file.
8. All incoming articles are inspected for potential restoration and are routinely cleaned. Wooden articles are inspected for beetle and other insect or fungal damage. Should fumigation be necessary, the article(s) will be taken to Rentokil in Claremont.
9. All items taken up into the core collection must be accessioned in the Accessions Register and must receive an accession number, according to SAMA requirements.
10. Items for the teaching or handling collection do not need to be accessioned.
11. Items from the permanent or the teaching/handling collection may, with discretion, be loaned to other institutions, schools and individuals. In this case a Loan Agreement is entered between the Head of the Centre/Museum and the Lender.
12. Should it become necessary for objects to be de-accessioned, the following principles apply:
12.1. In the event of theft or loss by physical damage or an act of God, the loss will be reported to the SA Police Services (Wynberg), the Advisory Committee and the WCED (Metropole South Education District, and Asset Management at Head Office). The Accessions Register will be amended to reflect the loss.
12.2. If an already accessioned item is considered no longer useful to the core collection of the Education Museum, the article will be offered to another museum for exchange or as a gift. The item will then be de-accessioned according to SAMA’s Code of Ethics by the Head or responsible staff member. It must, however, be remembered that the permanency of the collection is threatened by de-accessioning.
12.3. In cases where excess items were accessioned indiscriminately in the early days of the Museum, and where these articles are causing a storage problem, and where these items do not constitute a national treasure, the items may, with the approval of the Advisory Committee, be sold to generate much-needed funds. Full records of these transactions will be kept and the Accessions Register updated as described in 12.2.
Ownership of the Collection:
1. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED), being a provincial authority, is the ultimate autonomous body (as defined in the constitution of SAMA) governing the Education Museum. The WCED therefore holds the collection in trust for the nation. However, for practical purposes, the Centre’s Advisory Committee – a body constituted by authority of the WCED – will assume this role.
2. Dissolution clause: in the event of the WCED closing the Museum, the Advisory Committee will endeavour to have the collection as a whole transferred to Western Cape Museum Services (Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport), which is a provincial authority.
of the Education Museum
School museums the world over collect and display much the same material. Many of the artefacts displayed in The Education Museum may have been everyday items in our parents’ days, but are completely unknown to today’s children. The aim of the collection should always be to preserve the past for the future. The following is a comprehensive list of educational materials that form part of both the Education Museum’s core and handling collection:
1. Classroom furniture:
pupils’ desks, forms, Kindergarten chairs, teachers’ desks, office desks, office chairs, art tables, science tables, science stools;
2. Writing materials:
slates, slate pencils, sandboxes, dip pens, ink pots, ink pourers, ink trays, fountain pens, blotting paper, pencils, crayons, blackboards, green boards, chalk, pencil cases;
exercise books, copybooks, text books, atlases, readers, song books, poetry books, teachers’ record books, catalogues, education gazettes, handbooks for teachers, arts and craft books;
4. Teaching apparatus:
counting frames, Fröbel apparatus, Cuisenaire rods, building blocks, cardboard money, science equipment, globes, maps, charts, musical instruments, musical charts, modulators, pictures, models, plasticene, reading boards (leesplankies);
5. Mathematical tools:
Geometry sets, geometric forms, rulers, slide rules, cardboard money;
6. Physical Education and sports apparatus:
hoops, balls, dumb bells, boxes, vaults, skipping ropes, skittles, cricket bats and pads, tennis rackets, netball skirts and bibs, rugby jerseys;
7. Handcraft equipment:
sewing machines, cotton reels, scissors, needles, samplers, irons, ironing boards, washboards, woodwork benches, woodwork tools;
8. Audio-visual equipment:
overhead projectors, film projectors, slide projectors, tape recorders, stroboscopes, epidiascopes, magic lanterns, magic lantern slides, 35mm films, records;
Victorian sailor outfits, pinafores, hats, boots, boot laces, school uniforms, blazers, school badges, cadet uniforms;
10. Toys and games:
marbles, tops, skipping ropes, dolls, paper dolls, dolls houses, dollhouse furniture, model cars, model trains, Mecca no sets, kennetjie sticks, handmade whistles, old board games, building blocks;
11. Punishment tools:
canes, leather straps, wooden spoons, dunce caps, principals’ punishment books;
12. Office equipment:
typewriters, duplicating machines, heaters, rubber stamps, stamp holders, almanacs, weighing scales, official government books, registers, official envelopes, in/out trays, pen-holders, filing systems, safes, old telephones;
school buildings, school groups, teachers, students, individuals, sports teams, special events;
inspection reports, Departmental circulars, minutes of meetings, correspondence from parents, pupils’ reports, school certificates, teachers’ certificates, stock order forms, programmes of cultural events, school magazines;
15. School Feeding Scheme:
soup tureens, pots, crates, boxes, tins, milk churns, jugs, mugs, order forms, delivery notes, records;
16. Hostel equipment:
beds, blankets, sheets, furniture, crockery, cutlery, soap, washing apparatus;
bells, satchels, suitcases, tog-bags, lunch tins, natural history collections.
All of the above form the basis of a good collection for display. However, they are also indispensable tools for education and for research.
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