'SA museums facing a crisis of funding and relevance'

South African museums are reportedly in a battle to remain relevant.

Historical, scientific, artistic and cultural exhibitions worldwide were previously funded by governments.

However, due to lack of finances museums now rely more on corporations, civil society organisations and individuals.

(Also read our article: Anyone, anywhere can now "visit" Nelson Mandela's former prison thanks to Google)

According to Shaun Samuels, consultant to civil society organisations, the country’s museums face a highly constrained funding environment as they struggle to prove their relevance in South Africa’s post-democratic and digitally advanced society.

Samuels says that the South African Museums Association has not been forthcoming about the statistics on the state of the industry.

We don't have the exact data, but many museums have closed and others cannot expand their creative scope and their exhibitions remain largely unchanged.

Shaun Samuels, Director of the Technical Support and Dialogue Platform

Samuels advises that in order for museums to attract funders, they must have a clear understanding of their value proposition and their role in contemporary South Africa.

He says that many museums have failed to argue their added value beyond the artifacts they collect.

According to Samuels, South African museums ought to:

  • collaborate with other museums on creative projects.
  • reach out to communities through initiatives such as travelling exhibitions.
  • record data about their visitor trends and other experiences they offer.

Museums can play a role in South Africa, not only in the past and memory and heritage. They could play a role as a point of convergence in the country.

Shaun Samuels, Director of the Technical Support and Dialogue Platform

Presenter Africa Melane also invited listeners to share their experiences from remarkable local and international musuems.

Listen to the full conversation, with Africa Melane standing in, on The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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