Oral history in the exhibitionary strategy of the District Six Museum, Cape Town
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District Six was a community that was forcibly removed from the centre of Cape Town after its demarcation as a white group area in 1966. In 1989, the District Six Museum Foundation was established in order to form a project that worked with the memory of District Six. Out of these origins, the District Six Museum emerged and was officially opened in 1994 with the Streets: Retracing District Six exhibition. The origin moments of the museum in the 1980s occurred at the same moment that the social history movement assumed prominence within a progressive South African historiography. With the success of Streets, the decision to ‘dig deeper’ into the social history of District Six culminated in the opening of the exhibition, Digging Deeper, in a renovated museum space in 2000. Oral history practice, as means of bringing to light the hidden and erased histories of the area, was embraced by the museum as an empowering methodology which would facilitate memory work around District Six. In tracing the evolution of an oral history practice in the museum, this study aims to understand how the poetics involved in the practices of representation and display impacted on the oral histories that were displayed in Digging Deeper. It also considers how the engagement with the archaeological discipline, during the curation of the Horstley Street display as part of Streets, impacted on how oral histories were displayed in the museum.
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