Friends to carry museum forward

2019-02-19 06:00
From let: Cdr Leon Steyn, WO1 Harry Croome, R Adm André Rudman, Dr Kerry Louw, Mr Grant Duncan, Lt Cdr Glenn von Zeil, John Sutherland and Capt Chris Dooner. PHOTO: CPO Marc Zeeman

From let: Cdr Leon Steyn, WO1 Harry Croome, R Adm André Rudman, Dr Kerry Louw, Mr Grant Duncan, Lt Cdr Glenn von Zeil, John Sutherland and Capt Chris Dooner. PHOTO: CPO Marc Zeeman

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The inaugural meeting of the Friends of the South African Naval Museum was successfully held at the Naval Museum in Simon’s Town on Thursday 31 January .

The officer-in-charge of the SA Naval Museum, Commander Leon Steyn, presented the activities of the museum to the Friends and reflected on the museum’s successes and growth, while acknowledging the challenges and opportunities the future holds for the museum. “In recent years we have been able to make the museum more inclusive and more reflective of the current SA Navy. The opening of the ‘Transformation Display’ in 2014 was a major step towards this goal to make all members of the Navy proud of ‘their’ museum. While maintaining a traditional nautical flavour and feel, we have also added several more interactive and modern audiovisual tools to also make the museum more appealing to a younger audience. Today the SA Naval Museum is rated on TripAdvisor as the number two of 18 things to do in Simon’s Town,’’ said Steyn.

The museum was established at its current location in Simon’s Town in 1993, but had its origins at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town when a military museum was established there in 1966. The museum is housed in the historic Royal Navy Mast House and Sail Loft that dates back to 1813/14 and the Dutch Storehouse that dates back to 1743, which are some of the oldest naval buildings in Simon’s Town.

With the Friends of the Museum being established, Steyn says one of the objectives of the Friends is to encourage interest in naval matters. Practical ways that Friends can become involved include the maintenance and upkeep of the items on display or as tour guides to specific groups that visit the museum, or to assist in the library and archives with cataloguing.

“They (Friends) will assist the museum in the acquisition, restoration, maintenance and display of exhibits; to promote the museum’s objectives by means of effective communication including meetings, the internet, social media, displays, publications and advertising; to raise funds and to provide these funds plus any materials, equipment, information, expertise, advice and publicity necessary to specific projects as identified in conjunction with the SAN Museum. They will also foster a spirit of friendship and cooperation, establish and build relationships with like-minded local and international naval associations and organisations in order to promote the SA Naval Museum and the Friends,” said Steyn.

Steyn said although the turnout was less than expected on the blustery “night at the museum”, all the objectives were successfully met.

“The nominated chairperson of the Friends, Captain Chris Dooner (Ret.), then presented the proposed constitution to the Friends. The Friends of the South African Air Force Museum have been very helpful to assist, and the process to establish the Friends has been benchmarked from their established structures. The members were invited to put their creative caps on for the design of a Friends of the Museum emblem or badge and this will be opened up to all interested Friends joining in the near future. The meeting was concluded with some light refreshments and a tour of the museum,” he said.

He added that museum volunteers are an integral part of many recognised museums worldwide and in most cases make out more than half the staff component. “Enthusiasts that are passionate about the history and heritage of the organisation are often able to complement its activities, where there is a lack of expertise, institutional knowledge or even creativity. Volunteers can be utilised in a myriad of ways such as tour guides, historical researchers, archivists, librarians or in technical applications (repairs and maintenance of museum artefacts),” said Steyn.

Interested parties are welcome to join the Friends of the SA Naval Museum. The next annual general meeting will be held on Thursday 28 March at 18:00 at the museum.

V A draft of the constitution can be requested from or while application forms to join the Friends are available from or from the SA Naval Museum reception in Simon’s Town.


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