PMB to lose its historical museum

2016-06-29 06:00
PHOTO: Ian CArbutt Macrorie House Museum will be closing its doors.

PHOTO: Ian CArbutt Macrorie House Museum will be closing its doors.

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THREATS of criminal activity and reduced funding have led to the imminent closure of one of Pietermaritzburg’s historical buildings, Macrorie House Museum.

The building, at the top of Jabu Ndlovu Street, dates back to the 1850s, having been extended from time to time.

The Macrorie collections are named after Reverend William Kenneth Macrorie and his wife Agnes, who came to Natal in 1869 following the controversial excommunication of Bishop Colenso. They lived at South Hill in the former Loop Street for 25 years until the house was sold when they returned to England.

It is situated in what used to be a well considered part of Pietermaritzburg, close to what used to be Government House and is now the Unisa building.

According to Debbie Whelan, chairperson of the board of trustees at Macrorie House, the building was originally purchased by the Simon van der Stel Foundation in the mid 1960s, and the collection of items began.

However, it took considerable time to get to the point of opening as it only opened its doors as a museum in 1975 displaying pieces of history from the Victorian period that was donated by various members of the public over the years.

“It forms a significant part of heritage in the city, and is, in fact, an important example of a Victorian House museum, which has been enjoyed by visitors both local and international. Its collection displays the transition to technology which came as part of the late industrial revolution era, in addition to revealing the manner in which settlers in early Pietermaritzburg lived. Its loss will be felt as this layer of history will be removed,” said Whelan.

However, Whelan said that as a board their responsibility is to ensure the collection and house is kept safe.

“The decision [to close] was not taken lightly. We are also following certain legal processes which are time consuming, however, it must be noted that there are strict protocols with closing museums, and these will be followed,” she said.

Whelan added over the years the museum board has consisted of dedicated members of Pietermaritzburg’s academic and lay society, and its curators, most of whom served the museum for many years, played an active role in the promotion of the museum and its collection.

She said that there are plans to move the collection, in its entirety, to a secure venue and all interested and affected parties will be informed of the date of the closure of the museum.

Threats of criminal activity and reduced funding have led to the closure

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