Journey through time

An old building, harking back to the gold rush in the late 1800s, houses Mogale City’s history. It’s a must-see for everyone.

The old courtroom
The old courtroom
ENTERING the Mogale City Museum is like undertaking an epic voyage of discovery, travelling seamlessly through millennia and encountering fractured images of a nation in the making.

Located at the corner of Commissioner and Monument streets in Krugersdorp, the museum was set up in 1995 by the City of Mogale as a repository of the history of the area, known globally for its rich findings of human fossils.

The museum is housed in a building that is itself steeped in history, harking back to the gold rush of the late 19th century.

Popularly known as the old magistrate court, the building was built as a courtroom in 1890. The cornerstone of the building was laid on 18 September 1890 by Paul Kruger, president of the then Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR).

Justice has been dispensed from this building, but it has also been in service of popular culture, with scenes for TV dramas and movies filmed within its hallowed walls. The building has been used as municipal offices and, more recently, as a small claims court.

It is a space alive with images of human evolution and symbols of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras, sitting uneasily together. Here, Mrs Ples, our distant ancestor, resides in the same neighbourhood as Paul Kruger, the president of the former Transvaal, and Ace Ntsoelengoe, the soccer maestro. The museum has indeed become the great leveller.

The museum seeks to recreate the history and cultures of Mogale City, capturing its archaeological richness, which lays emphasis on the emergence of mankind, the Stone Age, the Iron Age, the early arrival of the Batswana in the Witwatersrand region, the history of mining and its role in the development of the town, and the Anglo Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

Any project that sets out to recreate the past necessarily has to make choices about what aspects of the past are to be recalled and which are to be discarded, and the medium of narration to be used.

Thus, in narrative form, through photographs, plates, artefacts, newspaper clippings and, of course, the authoritative voice of the guide, the museum reconstructs and retells the South African story, at once localised and globalised.

Images of the evolution of mankind are placed alongside those recalling the great trek of the Voortrekkers, the carnage of the Anglo Boer War, the early Batswana migrants, mining history - all in their march towards the creation of contemporary South African nationhood.

The magistrate court is still there, magnificent and intact. The museum also counts among its collection tools used by the Batswana in the Stone Age, makeshift knives recalling the Iron Age, reeds used to secure households, items of clothing, irons and primus stoves evoking memories of the early Afrikaner settlers and even a miniature mine shaft.

One of the museum's rooms was used as a holding cell for awaiting-trial prisoners during the Anglo Boer War.

For children, there is a children's section, with toys from days gone by on display. However, the museum needs to put more effort into capturing the history and lifestyles of the residents of nearby Kagiso and Munsieville townships, conspicuous by their absence.

The only concession to township history is the collection of newspaper articles from the 1980s on the exploits of Patrick 'Ace' Ntsoelengoe, a soccer legend who played for Kaizer Chiefs and was one of the first South African soccer players to ply his trade overseas.

The museum is broadening its collection: as with all museums, it’s a work in progress. A key development is to cover the history of political struggles in the area.

The museum offers guided educational tours for students and groups. For bookings and more information, telephone 011 951 2336.

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011 951 2000
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