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History Research

The History section conducts research on a variety of topics relating to Eastern Cape history. Much of the research is collections-based, drawing on the strengths available in the store room. This includes excellent information and objects relating to Eastern Cape missionary endeavours, local genealogy and objects relating to the German Settlers (1857-1859). The museum also serves as the official repository of the Cape Mounted Riflemen (CMR).

Brownlee Station

Entrance to Brownlee Station, c. 1910

The museum is a very popular genealogical resource centre. Apart from individual enquiries, the computerised biographical records have assisted two local group claimants, from Brownlee Station and Leightonville respectively, with their restitution claims. The Historian subsequently extended her research to include pre-apartheid housing in King William's Town as the subject of her MA thesis.

Other research interests include local biographies. Publications include Andries Botha (resident of the Kat River and alleged 1850 rebel, and his descendants), Mesach Pelem (local boarding house owner and an early ANC stalwart) and Griffiths Mxenge, ex-Robben Islander and struggle stalwart who was brutally killed in November 1981. She has also published on Nonesi and Katye, respectively the wives of Chiefs Siyolo and Maqoma, who accompanied their husbands to Robben Island. Many other biographies can be viewed in the Imvubu file on this website.

The Historian haMerrymakerss also conducted several community outreach programmes. In 2005, for example, a reunion for the erstwhile people of Old Town, the District Six of King William's Town, was held at the museum. For Heritage Day 2007 we invited Ginsberg residents who knew Stephen Bantu Biko, the well-known Black Consciousness leader, to share their reminiscences with an audience of local learners. The scholars, in return, recited their poetry and took part in a theatrical drama production on the life of Biko. The event was facilitated by the Museum and the Steve Biko Foundation. In July 2008 the Museum hosted and organised a seminar on the contribution of the German Settlers at the museum. The result is a wonderful compilation entitled 'Widening the Scope: Revisiting the impact of the German Settlers on the Eastern Cape' with contribution from Dr. Keith Tankard, Pastor Arthur Becker, Dr. Susan Brodrick, Mark Pautz, Gill Vernon and Stephanie Victor & Desmond Kopke. The booklet is now for sale at the museum for R50.00 per copy. In addition, she does consultancy work and has conducted several Heritage Impact Assessments to augment museum funds.

Since 2010 the Historian has conducted more than 50 interviews for our latest state-of-the-art installation, Idabi lenkululeko eQonce which was opened in February 2016. An oral history exhibition, we focused on collecting narratives and related objects on King William's Town, focusing on the 1970s and 1980s.

Gender has been a prolonged interest. 'Ordinary Women: Extraordinary Lives' was opened in 2007. It was removed from display in 2015 to make space for Idabi, but plans are in place to revamp it into a travelling exhibition. From 2017 the Historian has pursued her research on 19th century Xhosa-speaking women of royalty in the Eastern Cape. Watch this space!

For a select list of publications, cf.

Cobus Congo  Noseki.Scenes from K-land.Kitton.close-up

AmaGqunukhwebe Chief Kobe Cungwa and his wife, Noseki.

Source: Anon. 1854. Scenes in [Xhosa]land and incidents in the [Xhosa] War of 1851 – 3 from sketches by two officers of the 43rd infantry, Dickenson, London.