Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's in a Tour?

One of the major components of the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum visitor experience is the Walking Tour. From the earliest days of the Museum’s establishment, the idea of the Walking Tour was developed as a way of taking visitors into the landscape of the migrant labour compound. Here visitors experienced first-hand the spaces and places associated with the systems of control which formed the basis of the compound, as well as a sense of the conditions of the township into which Lwandle has grown since the 1980s.

LMLM's Curator Lunga Smile takes visitors on the Walking Tour through Lwandle, April 2010. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

Over the years the Museum’s research has been focused on gathering memories and information about the landscape, its planning, its buildings, and peoples’ memories of the migrant labour experience. In 2001, a joint project between the Lwandle Museum and University of the Western Cape’s Project on Public Pasts (based in the History Department and funded by the NRF), along with students from the then Post-graduate Diploma in Museum and Heritage Studies -now the African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies-, UCT Architecture students and Brown University to facilitate a research culture amongst students so they would go on to become graduate students, produced an exhibition based on a research project undertaken in Lwandle , entitled ‘Unayo na iMephu?’ (Do you have a Map?) Components of this exhibition still form part of the permanent exhibitions on display at the Old Community Hall at the museum.

Visitors to the museum are invited to contribute their memories. Panels produced in English and isiXhosa from research into the landscape of Lwandle, August 2001, from the exhibition Unayo na iMephu? (Group project curated by Bongani Mgijima, Noeleen Murray and Leslie Witz with students and academics. Graphics by Angela Tuck.

Running in parallel with on-going research and oral history projects over the last ten years, the Lwandle Museum staff have produced, reviewed and up-dated written narratives for the tour which each tour guide uses as the basis for their tours. Along with personal additions the current tour guides, adapt these narratives on each Walking Tour, thereby providing visitors with a combination material from the museum’s research archive with personal views of the guides, all of whom are local residents.

Example of one of the scripts produced over the years for the Walking Tour, based on research by the LMLM. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

The Lwandle Museum is very much a museum about process and the tour narrative reflects this. Museum staff met recently to update the Walking Tour narratives to include accounts of the research revealed in the process of restoring Hostel 33 over the last few months.

LMLM staff met with Noeleen Murray to discuss changes to the Walking Tour, following recent developments in the restoration of Hostel 33, April 2010. L-R, Mphumzi Nzozo (tour guide), Lunga Smile (curator), Simpiwe Konono (tour guide) and Lundi Mama (education officer). Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

As such, people who visit the museum while the restoration is taking place are shown the ways in which the museum is working with the historical fabric of the building and invited to contribute to debates around the evolving exhibitions. Visitors record their experiences in the museum's Visitors Book.

A mixture of research and personal experience, LMLM's tour guides are all local residents who know the place intimately. Photograph: Noeleen Murray.

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