The Museum van de Caab tells the story of Delta farm, a story that is typical of so many of the old farms in the Drakenstein Valley. At the Museum, we try to tell this story through the subjective viewpoints of individual people – which is the defining philosophy behind the Museum.
The social history of the 320-year-old estate is displayed in a museum in the original wine cellar, dating back to 1740. This is a few yards from a recently excavated Later Stone Age settlement site, and the exposed foundations of a 1680s hunting lodge, one of the oldest buildings in the Cape.
It has always been an important part of the Solms-Delta ethos to uncover and celebrate all the voices and influences that have had a role to play in making this farm’s history what it is – whether they are settler, slave, indigenous inhabitant or present day farm resident.
The value of the personal voices and human dramas of the people who lived at Delta is that they can be used to create a realistic, complex and sometimes contradictory picture of the past. This allows visitors to the Museum van de Caab to form their own opinions about what happened, to decide how they feel about certain events or agents, and to relate aspects of these stories to their own lives.
From its name, which honours the farm’s slave heritage, to the fascinating display, the emphasis of the Museum van de Caab is on the individual people who lived and worked on the farm, from pre-colonial times to the present. One of the walls is covered by 200 stone plaques, each memorializing an individual life given to the farm through slavery.
It has been argued that communities sometimes look to museums as places in which their identity is articulated. As a result museums have the responsibility of ensuring that exhibitions depict history and culture in a dynamic way. Museums are increasingly asked to ensure that their displays ‘resonate with contemporary issues and present-day realities‘. One way of achieving this is to represent communities from the past and present as changing, non-static entities.
One of the main aims of the Museum van de Caab is to research the social and cultural heritage of the Solms-Delta estate and surrounding region, highlighting the often silent and marginalized voices, alongside the dominant narratives, that together contributed to making South Africa what it is today.