31 May 2011

Herbarium volunteer

The Selmar Schonland Herbarium would like to extend a belated welcome to Jo Skae. Many of the museum staff will by now recognize Jo arriving at 9am and leaving at 12:30 pm twice a week. We are delighted that she has offered her time and skills as a volunteer in the herbarium. Jo taught music at Kingswood for 12 years and after many years away she has returned to Grahamstown to be close to her grandchildren.

Thank you Jo!

30 May 2011

Museum exempted

by: Zongezile Matshoba

Makana Municipality has responded positively to the outcry that Albany Museum has been making for a number of years, and exempted it from rates (see Grocott's Mail, 17 May 2011).

Many were starting to worry of the possibility that the museum may have to close down. Out of the little subsidy that the museum gets, over 50% of its operational budget goes to the municipal rates, water and electricity. The rest has to pay telephone accounts, fleet management, buildings maintenance and insurance among other things.

Albany Museums is a non-profit organization. The entrance fee that is charged to visitors is far less that even the money many pay to attend other entertainments like film or music show. Educators, learners, researchers and other communities who come for behind-the-scenes consultation do not pay.

For more:
Albany Museum Closure: What would it mean?
Historic museum at risk of closure

20 May 2011

Donation to the herbarium

The Selmar Schonland Herbarium would like to thank Brandon Stooss, regional manager of South African paper merchant Antalis, and sales consultant Greg Binge, for the donation of 30 large sheets of acid free paper.

The herbarium accessions +-2000 new plant specimens each year and uses acid free archival quality mounting boards to mount these. We are extremely grateful fo the donation that came just as our last consignment of mounting boards was depleted.

Thank you Antalis!


The first part of the Scifest “Measurement” workshop was done by Nozipho Madinda Mobile Museum educator.She divided the learners into groups with different activities such as:
• measuring food using a food scale,
• Using tape measures to measure doors and tables,
• Body measurements,
• A hand span activity and
• Using a scale to measure their weights and their heights from largest to smallest, tallest to shortest.

Boys and girls enjoyed the workshop, even the report back. There was even time to draw shapes and measure those. The four workshops were popular and fully booked.

The second part of the Scifest “Measurement” workshop happened in the Victorian Kitchen in the basement of the Observatory Museum, our most famous museum in Grahamstown. Fleur Way-Jones, Historian, showed the eager learners the old pint jugs, the spoons and scale (marked in ounces and pounds). Boys and girls from local and rural schools poured, scooped and weighed comparing the weights on the old scale and the new one.

19 May 2011

Scifest 2011 - What's Cooking in the Victorian kitchen?

What’s cooking in a Victorian Kitchen
By Fleur Way-Jones

The second part of the Scifest “Measurement” workshop happened in the Victorian Kitchen in the basement of the Observatory Museum, our most famous museum in Grahamstown. Fleur Way-Jones, Historian, showed the eager learners the old pint jugs, the spoons and scale (marked in ounces and pounds). Boys and girls from local and rural schools poured, scooped, weighed, comparing the weights on the old scale with that of the new one.

Then a learner-chef (a strong contender for the Master Chef contest) put on the green apron and with a few helpers, prepared scones, according to the recipe of the day. There was strong competition between mothers’ recipes. One recipe needed more of this; the other one a little of that. Each time the cooked scones were served to the group that arrived the next day and they made their comments – “nice and tasty”, “a bit flat but sweet enough”,etc.

So Master Chef Observatory style was born! Well thank you to Anthony from Kingswood and Sizeka and Ayanda from Amasongo School for being such great chefs!

14 May 2011

Farm Community Museum-ing

By: Zongezile Matshoba

The third and final leg of the International Museum Week, a build-up to the International Museum Day celebrations to take place in Umthatha later in May took place at Masakhane Farm School at Ncazana in Seven Fountains on Friday.

Similar to other days like Valentine's Day on 14 February, Mothers' Day on 09 May and World Aids Day on 01 December, the International Museum Day on 18 May is celebrated by all those who love and have interest in museums, the farm community were told.

The growing impoverished community came in numbers to listen to their children narrating their museum experience. These learners were giving a report back and demonstrating how they represented their school and community the day before.

Nothemba Lungile, the principal of the school, cherished DSRAC and Albany Museum for leaving town schools and opted to celebrate with the farm community.

Wearing traditional attire, they sang and dance in jubilation. As a norm, Africans never resist to stand up and ululate whenever someone praise-sing their forefathers. It was the same case when these learners chanted their clan names.

Some of the learners, Ziniya Okuhle Mgcima, Akhona Dosini and Sandile Ndubela all said they had fun and learnt more about museum galleries and animals.

The parents confessed that despite their old age, they have never been to a museum.

“Maybe I passed it when I am in town,” said one parent in despair.

They thanked Albany Museum for coming to their part of the world and tell them more about the museums. They confessed that they became worried when their children said they were going to the museum as they have heard all the funny stories.

For more ...
International Council of Museums (ICOM): International Museum Day
South African Museums Association (SAMA)

12 May 2011

Museum cherish being African

By: Zongezile Matshoba

The observation of the International Museum Day continued on the second day with young grade 6 to 9 from four farm learners visiting the museum. These were from Malla, Farmersfield, Hope Fountain and Seven Fountains all around Grahamstown in the Makana Municipality.

Zweliyanyikima Vena, a well-respected veteran in isiXhosa culture and traditions, graced the day. The day focused on African genealogy. Vena emphasized on the importance of knowing each one’s father and mother backgrounds.

“God need and love people who know and cherish their background,” Vena said. “You must not miss the point that knowing yourself and identity is the key,” added, and warning those thinking that living and believing the western way is fancy and posh.

Vena acknowledged the importance of education, and the role that museums are playing. The move by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to focus on Africa with the theme “Museums and Memory” proved to be a wise one.

The learners proved the grounding in their African roots. With whistles and ululations rumbling the hall, they seemed like competing, taking the stage one after other. Amazingly, they recalled clan names of their mothers, fathers, and grandparent-parents.

The general tour to the galleries left their faces blossoming with wide smiles as they pose for pictures all over the place.

For More ...
International Council of Museums (ICOM):
International Museum Day
South African Museums Association (SAMA)

11 May 2011

Way paved for future museum curators

By: Zongezile Matshoba

The formidable team of Albany Museum and DSRAC Cacadu District officials yielded unprecedented result when over 90 grade 10 and 11 learners from disadvantaged township and farm schools came to the museum for Museums Careers on last Wednesday.

This was day 1 of the International Museum Week, a build-up to the International Museum Day observed on the 18 May every year.

Fleur Way-Jones, the Albany History Museum curator and a veteran in museum circles, started the day with a well-thought PowerPoint presentation. This highlighted several important points relating to the various roles that learners could play in ensuring that they become part of the museum sector.

Well armed with a solid background, the learners visited A – Z research departments wanting to know:

What is each department called?
What is each professional leading the department known as?
What work does each department do?
What subjects do learners need to study at school, and courses that students need to follow at University if they are interested in a particular department.

The curators came to the play, indeed, starting from Dr Johan Binneman’s Archeology department. The assistants, in the absence of the researcher, did not disappoint either, the likes of Nomthunzi Api in Anthropology, Terrence Bellingan and Soxunjwa in Freshwater Invertebrates, and Luvuyo Mayi in Paleontology.

The learners all agreed that this was an eye-opener that widens their career opportunities. They applauded the enthusiasm that all the research departments showed, and the commitment to welcome them back anytime that they seek further assistance.

At the end of the programme, each learner was given a Museum Careers Flyer focusing mostly at Albany Museum as an example. This was adapted from a Museums Careers Booklet, initiated by Bongani Mgijima, Albany Museums Manager, and being developed by Cathy Lambley, Albany Museum’s Education Officer.

For More ...
International Council of Museums (ICOM):
International Museum Day
South African Museums Association (SAMA)

10 May 2011

Museum takes International Museum Day to farming community

By: Zongezile Matshoba

Albany Museum and DSRAC Cacadu District are kick-starting the week-long celebrations of the International Museum Week from 11 to 13 May 2011. This will be a build up to the International Museum Day Provincial celebrations to be held in Umthatha later this month.

International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) focus is in Africa, with the 2011 International Museum Day theme being Museums & Memory.

On day one, the 11 May 2011, 90 grade 10 and 11 learners from Nombulelo, Nyaluza, Mary Waters and Ntsika high schools have been invited to a Museum Careers focusing mostly on the scarce skills.

Each research department will be presenting to six (6) groups of 15 learners what it means to be a museum curator and researcher, what each curator does, and what one needs to study at high school and university to achieve that. This behind the scenes presentation by the research departments is more targeted to give exposure of the various departments to these learners.

The learners will also be given flyers with museum careers.

The aim is to encourage and entice those learners that lack information about career opportunities in museums. Each school will be accompanied by an educator.

Day 2, the 12 May 2011 sees grade 6 to 9 learners visiting the museum to present their genealogy. They will also be given a general guided tour of all the museum galleries. Farm schools are mostly targeted this year. They have been identified as the most underprivileged, and activities such as these rarely happened there.

Day 3, the 13 May 2011 is the climax, taking place at Seven Fountains farming community. The farm school learners who visited the museum will be sharing their museum experience with their community and parents. A guest speaker from the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture will also speak on the importance of Museums. The day will be accompanied by story-telling, traditional songs, dances, and praises.

International Council of Museums (ICOM): International Museum Day

South African Museums Association (SAMA)

06 May 2011

Bling bling - how do I look?

By: Zongezile Matshoba

One moment it is very quiet. One even wonders if the Scifest workshop is really happening, as the venue is being approached.

Inside the Education classroom at Albany Museum, participants sat and listened attentively as Celeste Booth, the Museum’s Assistant Archaeologist Curator, takes them through the history of jewellery making, from as far back as the Middle Stone Age.

Any late-comer to the workshop, or one who has just left it thinking that it is all theory and all boring would be shocked to hear hammering sounds depicting archeologists at work.

Faces brighten up as Bonny Tana and Natasha Higgit gives assistance to all participants determined to have their first ever jewellery made out of an ostrich egg shell.

Grinding a mere hole to the little piece of that shell takes around 20 minutes.

“Oh, no, my piece has broken,” screams one participant.

“Take another piece,” comes an immediate answer from another angle, urging the participant to continue working.

All participants work tirelessly, using very little stones as tools to open up the little holes in the shells. Others opt to start rounding up their shells in another egg-like stone to make a nice, neat looking piece.

Lastly, they took the twine and ask others for help … “Please rap this around my neck”

Following that are smiles, bragging, and snap, snap, using camera phones and digital cameras!

For more, please visit:


Museum exhibition skills glitter Hugh Tracey’s legacy

By: Zongezile Matshoba

Praises poured in for Zach Taljaard who has since moved to Cape Town, Cathy Lambley, and in particular Thabang Tshobeni both of Albany Museum’s Exhibition and Education Department respectively, for keeping Hugh Tracey’s legacy alive.

These accolades were from speakers, ranging from Professor Diane Thram, the current Director of ILAM, to Cecil Nonqane, the incoming Chairperson of the Albany Museum Board of Trustees.

All this happened during the official opening of the Grahamstown leg of the traveling “For Future Generations – Hugh Tracey and the International Library of African Music” on 05 May 2011 at Albany History Museum.

Thram applauded Bongani Mgijima, Manager of Albany Museum for releasing the trio since June 2010 to dedicate all their efforts and brains to this project.

Their artistic and design skills resulted in a breath-taking exhibition aiming at informing, entertaining and teach African music enthusiasts, researchers and scholars.

Professor Michael Whisson, welcoming the guests, said that the exhibition is a befitting tribute to an extra-ordinary father and son, Hugh and Andrew Tracey.

Nonqane thanked Rhodes University and ILAM for choosing Albany Museum as a reliable and best suitable host for the exhibition.

Andrew Tracey also echoed the same sentiment, saying that his late father would have been greatful about this exhibition.

This well curated exhibition will move back to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Johannesburg, and then to Cape Town’s Iziko Museum immediately after this year’s National Arts Festival.

Further reading:
For Future Generation
From Past Generation To Future Generation
Hugh Tracey exhibition opens at the Origins Centre
Hugh Tracey and the ILAM – a photo essay

05 May 2011

From Past Generation to Future Generation

By: Zongezile Matshoba

Thabang Tshobeni of the Exhibition Department worked tirelessly to complete the work they started with Zach Taljaard and Cathy Lambley. In 2010 the three were tasked with creating an exhibition on Hugh Tracey and The International Library of African Music (ILAM). That exhibition titled “For Future Generations – Hugh Tracey and the International Library of African Music” opened at Origins Centre Museum in Johannesburg in October 2010.

Traveling to Grahamstown was another new ball game as Tshobeni was all alone since Taljaard resigned in October 2010. Lambley continued to give assistance, designing posters and invitations. Tshobeni worked around the clock to ensure that every detail comes alive, ranging from music to film, and from musical instruments to Tracey’s history.

The exhibition traces Tracey’s arrival in South Africa, his discovery of African music, and his expeditions and endevours to capture and preserve African music for future generations.

Tracey traveled the breath and length of Africa to record almost every type of music that Africans sang in countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Mozambique, Lesotho Swaziland and South Africa. Africans used various rare types of musical instruments to sing songs for almost everything including weddings, ploughing, war, weaving, et cetera.

Lambley will conduct educational lessons immediately after the opening for all interested schools in and around Makana and Cacadu Municipalities.

The exhibition is opening for the public at Albany History Museum on 06 May 2011, and will run throughout the Scifest and the National Arts Festival.

More on For Future Generation:-

04 May 2011

Engulf in Archeological Stuff

By: Zongezile Matshoba

Albany Museum does not only lay a major role in providing strategic venues for the Scifest. Once again 2011 sees Albany Museum produces another newcomer into the Scifest Workshops, Celeste Booth, presenting three workshops.

Booth, an assistant curator under the guidance of Dr Jahan Binneman, will be assisted by Natasha Higgit, another archeologist in the making and an intern, and Bonny Tana, a general assistant, all in the Department of Archeology at Albany Museum.

The three workshops, from 04 – 10 May are:
• Prehistoric Bling from 09h00 – 11h00

This workshop looks at jewelry-making, using ostrich eggshells by prehistoric humans in particular.

• Knapping? from 12h00 – 14h00

The work is about tools used and their development during the Early, Middle and Later Stone Age. Participants will surely leave the workshop having experienced making their own tools.

• The Art of Prehistoric Paint-making from 15h00 – 17h00

This third and last workshop discusses the sustainability of rock painting from hundreds of years gone by. Secrets of the Sans, the hunters who used to do these paintings, consisting mostly of animals that they hunt, are shared with the hope of seeing how long will the painting by participants survive.

Anyone interested in any of the sort out workshops must be well in advance at the monument.

For more information and full details about the science festival, please visit: