Not everyone is madly enthusiastic about history. They’ll wave off philosopher George Santayana’s words: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ I’m not one of them. So when I went to the Overberg and found three museums within spitting distance of each other, I was hooked. Here’s why you should visit these museums in Swellendam.
The town’s most important museum, The Drostdy, dates back even further; it was built in 1747 and enlarged in 1813. Because it was both home and office of the Landdrost (magistrate of the district), it’s not surprising that it’s quite a coldly formal place. It does contain some lovely bits of furniture and I find the array of kitchen equipment intriguing.
Ms Rothmann pointed out the various floor treatments in the building, from wood, slate, peach pip and dung to lime-and-sand in the living room. ‘See that picture of the Landdrost?’ she asked, pointing a bony finger. ‘It’s one of Lady Anne Barnard’s. She stayed overnight here and drew him from behind because he was so ugly.’ These are the sort of intimate details that make museums so fascinating.
It’s still belongs to the Bloemfontein family. When we knocked at the big house in the same yard to ask if we could see inside, the woman told us it was in poor repair – and she was right. The thatched ceiling was partly collapsed and leaking. The smell of mould filled the air and seeped from the whitewashed walls. There was an open hearth with a potbellied chimney on the outside, but little else. It used to be furnished in the style of those who lived there, but all furniture has been removed, probably to save it from the damp.
Given its historical status, I hope that repair and renovation is on horizon to preserve this piece of local history that rounds out Swellendam’s quartet of museums.
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