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Friday, December 22, 2017


(Report by Dawn Haynes)

I recently visited The Bergtheil Museum in Westville. This museum is housed in the oldest building in Westville, just off King’s Road.

The house still has most of the original walls and yellowwood flooring and has been well preserved. It was occupied by Jonas Bergtheil who arrived in the 1840’s and was instrumental in bringing more than 200 German settlers to Westville. They settled on the banks of the Palmiet River and established farms there. Recent excavations have unearthed many valuable and interesting artefacts from the banks of the Palmiet, and these are on view in the Museum.

Having visited this museum before, I was thrilled to experience the museum in an interesting and innovative way! This is thanks to Stephanie Jenkins who is a Masters student and UKZN specialising in Museum Drama. We were welcomed at the entrance by two Drama students, Nosipho Sikhakane and Sfundo Sosibo. Standing in two large footprints painted on an entrance mat, we began our exploration of the museum by literally “walking in the footprints “of the early Settlers.

There are seven main areas in this museum and each of us was given a “Map of Memories” to recall a significant personal memory relating to each main room. In this way we were totally involved and participating throughout.

Nospipo and Sfundo used simple props and costumes in each room to become characters from the past and act out simple, relevant scenes which highlighted some of the main stories associated with this museum. They had us enthralled as they led us through the museum giving interesting facts and making the history of the area and its early Settlers such fun!

We went from the foyer to the bedroom, kitchen, Stone and Iron Age room, Church room and finally the Indian wedding room. Each room became a living piece of history as these talented performers brought the past to life.

Museum Drama is new in South Africa and I can honestly say that it is the best way to learn, experience and appreciate history. Stephanie Jenkins obviously has a love for history and her research was excellent. The final script was exciting and meaningful. It was well interpreted by the two performers and the Map of Memories had every one of us totally involved throughout.

I do hope this performance will be repeated at the Bergtheil so that many more locals, especially young students, can benefit from this Museum Experience.

Well done and thank you for including me in this original experience. - Dawn Haynes