About 30 delegates from nine museums across the Eastern Cape packed the Albany Museum's Rennie Wing Hall for the 33rd session of the annual South African Museums Association (SAMA) Regional Conference this week. The them for this year's conference is 'The Relevance of Museums Today.'
Dr Robert Gess delivered the keynote address on Tuesday. His talk, Grahamstown's Unique Devonian Heritage: A Cross-Cultural Shared Asset discussed the Waterloo Farm lagerstatte (black shale). Museum practitioners shared their aspects of museum life in their respective fields. Alongside these experts was Boniswa Tana, a General Assistant of the Archaeology section at the Albany Museum who presented a paper on the Relevance of Albany Museum Collections. Bonny, as she is affectionately known, gave a thorough description to the audience through a PowerPoint presentation of what every department at the museum does and the threats facing the museum collections. This was in stark contrast to her daily routine where she sweeps and polishes the ground floor with so much care and meticulousness. Little did we know that she would present a paper at a conference of such magnitude. During the museum outreach programmes you would see Bonny explaining with passion the work of the Archaeology section to the members of the public or school children. With her attention to detail and her passion, it is clear that she is destined for higher places. She is currently studying towards a Diploma in Communication and Counselling with the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). Well done Bonny, you made us proud.
Patricia Mafu, the Provincial Manager for Museum Services in the Directorate of Museums and Heritage Services at the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture (DSRAC) in King William'stown said, 'The attendance was awesome. This is an eye opening conference it its own making. Having novice speakers - that is presenters presenting for the first time - giving such quality papers is so stunning.' She added that it was very impressive conference and that every presenter on the programme was well prepared. 'This definitely is taking the museum sphere to the sky with the hope that the sky won't be the limit.'
Other sessions included:
A talk by Phumlani Cimi: The Role of the Herbarium in Understanding and Conserving Biodiversity. Zongezile Matshoba of National English Literary Museum spoke on Contemporary Issues Facing Museums. Dr Helen James of Albany Museum presented on: Natural History Museums, Adapting New Age Technology. Mark Wilby gave a talk on The Owl House in Nieu Bethesda, which, he says "Draws in excess of 15 000 visitors per year, to a particularly remote destination. The dramatic landscape is also a contributor to that." There is, says Wilby, "Tension amongst townspeople due to the community being in social transition."
Mary Cole discussed the "Relevance of national history collections today with reference to research on land snails in Eastern Cape." The last speaker of the day was Andisiwe Kuusi from Amathole Museum in King William'stown who recounted her experiences as a DST-NRF intern at a museum. Kubusi described the role of museums as "preserving and making accessible the remains of the past and present day." For many, the highlight of the day was the children from Kuyasa Special School's lunch time entertainment. They played Stand by me by Ben E. King. "It's not just a song for your ears, it's a message for your hearts, " said their teacher. Proceedings ended with a walking tour of Grahamstown.
The chairperson of the region, Phumeza Mntonintshi, curator of Anthropology at Albany Museum was pleased with this year's conference attendance and is looking forward to the next session in Uitenhage in 2017. She would also like to thank the local sponsors, Graham Hotel, Afri-Temba, Albany Business Machines and Pick 'n Pay.