After speaking to many South Africans I have found that Museums are not seen as approachable places where anyone can walk in a learn about their history and art. While museums can keep track so much important cultural history it seems that this information is not benefiting the people it should benefit most. Many South African museums have noticed this problem and are making strides to better connect to the general public.
We saw this at work at the Apartheid Museum on Youth Day when it hosted a panel of learners and allowed them to debate on topics important to them. This gave young people the opportunity to share their opinions in a safe place, and to hear what other students had to say. It was clear that they all understood the value education, and were dissatisfied with the current roll government in their lives. It was great to see younger kids getting to think about solutions to the problems they face in their lives.
We also saw more youth involvement when visiting the Hector Pietersen Museum. We spoke to Mpho Khumeke, who told us about the Hector Pietersen Book Club, which reaches out to kids in Soweto to give the the opportunity to have access to a library, and education skills for the future. Recently they had just had a debate conference where students learned how to debate and then were able to debate with other students. Mpho saw that Museums could not have a positive impact on their communities if they did not give back and reach out to those in need.
Reaching out to the Youth was also very apparent during our day with Museum Teen Summit Africa. As we had previously seen at the Apartheid Museum and Hector Pietersen, the youth is very important in creating social movements in South Africa. MTSA’s goal was to take the decision making of museum programming out of the hands of adults and into the hands of teens who know what they want and what will engage their peers. Its clear that the several of the museums we visited are all making strides to make programming that appeals to those in the community and engages them. Hopefully this emphasis can help museums connect better to people and help them engage with their own histories.