Town’s history is safe in their hands

A home for history: Fish Hoek Valley Museum curator Sally Britten, Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association secretary Alan Lindner, and Museum Board chairperson Herb Farrow, along with some stone artefacts found at Peers Cave.PHOTO: nicole mccain
A home for history: Fish Hoek Valley Museum curator Sally Britten, Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association secretary Alan Lindner, and Museum Board chairperson Herb Farrow, along with some stone artefacts found at Peers Cave.PHOTO: nicole mccain

From cataloguing interesting memorabilia and artefacts to researching and educating children, a team of passionate volunteers have become the caretakers of Fish Hoek’s history.

The Fish Hoek Valley Museum has been collecting noteworthy artefacts and caring for the history of the village for over two decades.

The museum was opened in 1994, after the Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association saw the need for a museum in which the history of the valley, extending from False Bay in the east to the Noordhoek-Kommetjie coastline in the west, could be displayed.

Over a number of years, items of historical interest were collected and stored in the Fish Hoek Library until eventually the town council gave the historical association the use of a house on the corner of Recreation Road and Fifth Avenue (“Museum shows off ‘the place you live’”, People’s Post, 3 November 2015).

Fish Hoek Valley Museum is governed by a trust, with the trustees being Herb Farrow (chairperson), Fritz Bing and Eddie Wesselo.

Just some of the historical gems that can be found in the museum are photographs tracing the development of Fish Hoek from Fish Hoek farm, which was owned by the De Villiers family; a collection of bleached whale bones from the time when Fish Hoek was a whaling station; and artefacts and murals from Peers Cave, depicting the cave as it must have been when inhabited by the Khoisan.

The cave was excavated in the late 1920s by Victor Peers and his son Bertie, with the duo finding numerous stone tools and the remains of people. One of these was dubbed the “Fish Hoek Man”, estimated to be 12 000 years old. Photographs of the excavation are also housed in the museum.

Children are encouraged to pose for photos in the Fish Hoek mayor’s chair.

The majority of the items on display have been donated by the community, says curator Sally Britten, and there is a range of photos, paintings and drawings by locals on display.

The museum’s archive was also grown significantly by the late Malcom Cobern, author and member of the historical association, who worked at the archives and came across many records pertaining to Fish Hoek, explains the association’s Alan Linder.

The museum still carries out a large amount of research, with many Fish Hoek residents requesting the history of their property, says Britten.

In fact, the records room at the library remains one of Lindner’s favourite places, as it is a treasure trove of a books and photos of Fish Hoek’s history. The research carried out at the museum covers a variety of topics, with research currently being undertaken on Fish Hoek’s water courses.

The museum will often consult the historical association and other similar neighbouring societies for information.

“There are no dedicated researchers. All the volunteers try to assist,” she says.

The museum, which is a private museum and receives no public funding, relies heavily on donations and volunteers. But volunteers do not need previous historical knowledge, Britten adds, as there are a number of roles they can fill. Volunteers can work as educators, interacting with the public and giving tours of the museum, or in the museum’s shop, or they can take up duties behind the scenes by assisting with social media, librarian duties, research or maintenance. Volunteers are only expected to work for three hours a week, Britten adds.

The real value of the museum lies in education young learners, Lindner believes, as the content is aligned to the curriculum, and “the special knowledge the museum has” builds on what they have learnt in the classroom.

And how do they care for all those pieces of Fish Hoek history, some hundreds of years old? “Very carefully!” says Britten.

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