Local museum closes its doors on colonial past

The Buffalo Volunteer Rifles Museum (BVRM) closed its doors earlier this month following a series of national military policies prohibiting the display of former colonial memorabilia.

At a public talk announcing the museum’s closure, hosted by the Border Historical Society, curator since 2006, Major Anthony Step, said the political contention around the museum’s exhibits have burgeoned in recent years and the trustees felt it best to close.

Situated at the corner of Buffalo and Fleet streets, the museum chronicled the military history of the Buffalo Volunteer Rifle Corps founded in August 1876.

The regiment served in the colonial division of the Anglo-Boer War, Ninth Frontier War, Second World War, Angolan War and the bush wars plus current efforts to stabilise conflict on the continent.

The museum’s exhibits contained material and firearms spanning pre-colonial, colonial, apartheid and democratic eras and was founded by former EL Museum director, Dr Marjorie-Courtney Latimer, Brian Watson and Craig Brown in the 1960s. The museum aimed to preserve all local military history, promote tourism, and contribute to socioeconomic upliftment.

However, 90% of the exhibits referred to colonial era sentiments which contemporary military policies deem offensive.

The museum trustees opted to remove the articles and plans are being made to re-home the items or place them in storage until such time that regiment members will consider reviving plans for a BVR museum.

The collections are worth millions and include portraits, medals, trophies, prisoner of war documents, uniforms, weapons and flags.

Step said: “I am sad at the closure of the museum because we believe that preserving history promotes a better understanding of the present.

“Parts of history may offend people, but we can’t change that.

“The museum will be in talks with Albany Museum, Amathole Museum and EL Museum to discuss donating some of the items to their exhibitions.”

The Border Historical Society believes the museum’s decision to close is hasty and will be regretted.

EL Museum director Geraldine Marcom said the closure of the museum will result in a serious gap in the understanding of the military history of the region.


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