From family business to public museum: the transformation of the sacks futeran buildings into the homecoming centre of the district six Museum
Hayes-Roberts, Elizabeth Hayley
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Through a grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation the District Six Museum Foundation Trust purchased the Sacks Futeran buildings in 2002 with a view to creating new spaces of engagement that worked with exhibitions, issues of social justice and District Six returnees. The Futeran family, as a gesture of philanthropic donation, sold the building below market value thus enabling the museum to take ownership. This related directly to civic public giving that the work of the District Six Museum entails and was consistent with an understanding of community museums. Acquiring, transforming and museumising the set of five interconnected Sacks Futeran buildings to create the District Six Homecoming Centre has influenced and extended the notion of civic public giving in the museum work of the District Six Museum in relation to District Six returnees and the public. The examination of a history in and through buildings and more specifically the transformation in use, design, purpose and naming in this complex of buildings associated with a family business, E. Sacks Futeran & Co., is the purpose of this research. The oral histories of Martin and Gordon Futeran reveal the origins of their family wholesale clothing and fabric business established in 1906 by their great grandfather Elias Sacks and by extension the Jewish histories of District Six. The apartheid denial of ‘home’ within the Cape Town city bowl, resulting in forced removals of the inhabitants of District Six and the formation of the District Six Museum as a transactive community museum model on the heritage landscape of post-apartheid South Africa is examined. With reference to architectural materiality, the set of buildings as transitional space is ‘mapped’ as it has become the Homecoming Centre of the District Six Museum.Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects blended older histories of the site with architectural aesthetic and technical expertise, and the Museum’s visions, philosophies and concepts were an integral part of the redevelopment. Over a number of years the Sacks Futeran buildings were restored and internally reconfigured and have been developed to dovetail with existing methodologies supporting the broader land restitution process. Through its spaces, a museum community is being nurtured by means of activism, notions of citizenship transforming District Six, the city and community museum practice in the process. The Fugard Theatre is an integral part of the Homecoming Centre and these buildings are experienced as a multi-functional cultural landmark within the District Six Cultural Heritage Precinct. By harnessing memory and materiality this study is relevant as a means of constituting historical urban fabric and a sensitivity of reconstructing a sense of place.