The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Museum Service, 1974-1995 : a brief history.
The Natal Provincial Museum Ordinance, No. 26 of 1973, made provision for the establishment, control and management of museums and art galleries in KwaZulu-Natal by the Provincial Administration. A museum service was created to provide technical and professional assistance to those museums which are affiliated to the Service. Twenty-one years later, museums in general, including those in KwaZulu-Natal, are discussing a restructuring of museums and policies. A new national policy for museums in South Africa is envisaged within the foreseeable future. This will effect the museums in KwaZulu-Natal. The development of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Museum Service has never been fully documented. As it is possible that the Museum Service in its present form might change, the author considered it relevant to research the development of the Service since its inception in 1974. Unpublished documents formed the bulk of the material used for the study. This includes minutes of the Museum Service Advisory Board; minutes of affiliated museum committee meetings; unpublished reports; memoranda and letters. The official legislation relating to the Museum Service, as well as resolutions taken by the Executive Committee of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, were studied. In some instances, the author used personal knowledge gained while working at Museum Service, to augment written sources. Verbal communications with Museum Service staff members and individual curators also provided information. The findings of the study clearly show that the problems experienced in 1985, i.e. too few staff and too little money in relation to the number of affiliated museums, are still experienced. The service which Museum Service provides is of a high quality, but the delay in providing displays to affiliated museums or upgrading the displays that have been mounted, is a problem. The Restoration Section is also in need of more staff, including apprentices who can be taught the techniques of restoration. These problems will become more serious as the Service starts supplying museum services to the rural and disadvantaged areas of KwaZulu-Natal. However, these problems can be overcome if funding is increased and more staff are appointed. The Service has the infrastructure and know-how to provide a valuable service to the museums of KwaZulu-Natal. The study was significant in that it documented the past history of the Museum Service and showed, not withstanding the problems the Service has experienced, what has been achieved in the twenty-one years of its existence. The valuable foundation which has been laid should serve as an inspiration for the future.