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Bloemfontein, South Africa

Collections Management

Collections Management

Study of Humanities

The Collections Management Department (Humanities) was created in 2008 and comprises the collections from the Anthropology and History Departments. The first artefacts entered the Anthropology Collection in 1878, a year after the Museum was founded. There are some interesting objects among the earliest accessions, for example, a San kierie, obtained originally in 1846 from the San man who made it and a bow and arrow from the Soutpansberg, donated in 1894 and said to have been taken in war against Queen Modjadji of the Lobedu. The first material that formed the nucleus of the History Collection was collected in 1877. This collection largely portrays the history of Bloemfontein, its surrounding areas and the rest of the Free State. Although there is material dating back to the seventeenth century, the major part of the collection consists of material from the nineteenth century, and deals mainly with European colonial history. Bloemfontein was founded in 1847 and there are a number of valuable objects relating to the early history of the city.


Basotho blankets on display at Oliewenhuis Art Museum

Basotho blankets
15 May – 6 July 2014

6 June 2014
The Basotho blanket collection was made available on loan to the National Museum by the Robertson family from Ladybrand, who traded in Basotho blankets. The uniqueness of this collection lies in its antiquity. The collection includes a Sandringham mountain rug, or Mohodu, dating back to 1934, a Badges of the Brave blanket honouring those who fought in World War II (1939-1945) and a Batho ba Roma blanket made to commemorate Pope John Paul’s visit to Lesotho in 1988. But certainly the most prestigious blanket in the collection is the Victoria England / Seanamarena or ‘chief’s blanket’. Production of this type of blanket is restricted, making it more expensive and therefore a much sought after item.

Seanamarena or 'chief's blanket'

Badges of the Brave
Badges of the brave

Basotho Collection available on SAHRIS's webpage

16 September 2013
The Basotho Collection which forms part of the Museum’s Anthropology Collection was recently added to the South African Heritage Resources Information System, commonly known as SAHRIS. www.sahra.org.za/sahris

A traditional conical hat weaved from palm fibres
A traditional conical hat weaved from palm fibres (O 3467).

Decorated clay pot used for carrying and storing liquids, mainly water
Decorated clay pot used for carrying and storing liquids, mainly water (O 1089).

Quilt works now form part of international quilt index

16 September 2013
Patchwork and quilted items in the textile collection are now included in an international quilt index www.quiltindex.org. This reference tool provides valuable information and images about quilts held in private and public collections all over the world.

What is a quilt

Usually a quilt is made by sewing two pieces of cloth together with padding in-between held in place by stitching that creates a design. However, very few quilts in the Museum’s collection are in actual fact quilted; they are rather examples of patchwork. Patchwork or pieced work involves sewing together shaped pieces of fabric to produce a pattern or motif. The larger design is accomplished by repeating these patterns.

In rural areas in South Africa, where fabric was very scarce, it took a lot of artistic innovation to create something beautiful.
In rural areas in South Africa, where fabric was very scarce, it took a lot of artistic innovation to create something beautiful. A woman would often use plain white or off-white fabric as a focal point in a design and then decorate it with land embroidery (G 470).

Many different pattern names exist
Many different pattern names exist, e.g. the Grandmothers’ Flower Garden pattern, where a central hexagon is circled by six colourful printed or solid hexagons to make a flower motif (G 931).


Chief Conservator and Head of Department

Sudré Havenga MA sudre@nasmus.co.za

Sudré-HavengaSudré completed her BA Honours degree in History at the University of the Free State and was appointed as Collections Manager of the History Department in November 1996. She obtained a Masters degree in History (Die Kultuurhistoriese Versameling van die Nasionale Museum) in 2007 and was appointed as Head of the Collections Management Department in 2008. Her field of interest includes conservation and preservation and she specialises in the preventative conservation of humanities collections.


Elmar-du-PlessisElmar du Plessis BA Hons elmar@nasmus.co.za

Elmar du Plessis obtained a BA degree in Culture Studies and later an Honours degree in History at the University of the Free State, after which she was appointed as Research Assistant in the Department of History at the University of the Free State. In 2007 she took up a post as Collections Manager in the National Museum’s Collections Management Department: Humanities. Her field of interest includes historical military firearms as well as household items from all cultures in South Africa.

Conservator Assistant

Anna-ChachaAnna Chacha

Anna Chacha was appointed at Oliewenhuis Art Museum (a satellite of the National Museum) in 2003. She transferred to the Archaeology Department in 2004 and then to the Collections Management Department in 2008. She is responsible for the caring and routine cleaning of the collections, specifically the Anthropology collection.

Engelina-MogoeraConservator Assistant

Engelina Mogoera

Engelina Mogoera was appointed at the Museum in 1982. Engelina is responsible for the caring and routine cleaning of the collections, specifically the household objects. She has an aptitude for ceramic restoration.

Liesbet ScottConservator Assistant

Elizabeth Scott

Aphavia LimoMuseum Officer - Freshford House Museum

Aphavia Limo

Pulane MashiyiMuseum Officer - First Raadsaal & Wagon Museum

Pulane Mashiyi


The aim of this Department is to preserve, conserve and manage the collections in its care according to the highest possible museum standards. The Department holds significant collections of 19th Century and contemporary European household articles, textiles, documents and photographs; an international numismatic collection and anthropological objects related to the lifestyles of indigenous peoples.

Line Functions

  • The care and management of the collections
  • Making collections accessible for exhibition and research projects
  • Handling public enquiries on the collection
  • Collections based research
Publications - Scientific Articles

Coetzee, G. & Havenga, S. 2014. Kinders en hulle speelgoed: 'n historiese-ageologiese studie van Welkomskraal, 'n pioniersplaas in die distrik Venterstad. Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Kultuurgeskiedenis 28(1): 24-45.

Havenga, S. & Wessels, A. 2012. “Examplair” – Victoriaanse merklappe met spesifieke verwysing na voorbeelde in die versameling van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum 28(1): 1-21.

Havenga, S& Wessels, A. 2007. Die veranderende silhoeët van bruidsuitrustings, 1830-1930. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum 23(4): 122–144.

Publications - Popular Articles

Du Plessis, E. 2014. Weapons that changed the face of World War I. Culna 69

Du Plessis, E. 2014. Blankets for royalty – The story of the Basotho blanket. Culna 69

Havenga, S. 2014. Albert Meyerhof – An ‘enemy alien’. Culna 69

Du Plessis, E. 2013. Voorlaaier van die Voortrekker. Culna 68

Havenga, S. 2013. Bottoms up! The story of tankards. Culna 68

Havenga, S. 2010. Charles Newberry and the Prynnsberg legacy. Culna 65

Havenga, S. 2009. The telephone – “talking by lightning”. Culna 64

Du Plessis, E. 2008. Die bewapening van die twee Boererepublieke voor en tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog, 1899-1902. Culna 63

Havenga, S2008. Exploring N’wana. Culna 63

Havenga, S2007. Shweshwe. Culna 62

Havenga, S. 2006. Republiek van die Oranje-Vrystaat het nooit eie munte gehad nie. Culna 61

Havenga, S2004. Unieke Sendinggeld – Raar maar waar. Culna 59

Havenga, S. 2003. The Graaff-Reinet Doll. Culna 58

Havenga, S. 2001. With this ring. Culna 56

Havenga, S. 1999. Die Nicolai-Bybeltjie: klein, maar met 'n ryk verlede. Culna 54

Havenga, S. 1998. 'n Toestel met 'n ander Dimensie. Culna 53

Havenga, S. 1997. 'n Borsspeld met 'n boodskap. Culna 52


The Collections Management Department (Humanities) comprises the collections from the Anthropology and History Departments.

Anthropology collection


The Anthropology Collection is relatively small, about 5000 objects, but is quite varied. The Collection incorporates objects from different parts of the world , for example Egypt and Australia.  The main focus is on southern African material, although most of the African continent is represented in some way in the collection.

History Collection

Ceramic collection

The Ceramic Collection consists of European ceramics, mainly English, dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

serving dish
A Mason serving dish and cover (ca.1940).

Document collection

The Document Collection is relatively small and houses mainly late nineteenth and twentieth century items. Items included in this collection are programmes (funerals, festivals), menus, letters, cards (Christmas, valentine, wedding), certificates etc.

luncheon menu
The menu for the formal luncheon in celebration of the opening of the Norvalspont-Bloemfontein railway on 17 December 1900 - the first railway in the Orange Free State republic.

Furniture collection

The Furniture Collection consists mainly of English furniture from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are a few South African manufactured pieces such as riempiesbanke. Fine examples of the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods can be viewed at Freshford House Museum.

Bobbin-turned side-table (ca.1690).

Household articles

This collection houses a large number of items found in and around nineteenth and twentieth century homes. It includes kitchenware, radios, telephones, cameras, ornaments, silverware, glassware etc.

copper charcoal iron
Copper charcoal iron (ca.1830's).

Numismatic collection

The Numismatic Collection (coins, notes and cheques) is relatively small and consists of items from all over the world.   Worth mentioning are the examples of old Free State paper money and Good Fors as well as an example of a Free State Pattern Penny (1888) and a Griqua missionary coin from 1815.

penny pattern
Pattern coin for the Orange Free State made by Otto, Nolte & Co. of Berlin, Germany (ca.1888).

Photograph collection

The large Photograph Collection consists mainly of photographs of the Free State and Bloemfontein: architecture, people of historical importance, political figures, fashion, education  and historical events are some of the themes represented in the collection.

photo grand theatre
The Grand Theatre in Hanger Street, Bloemfontein was a mixture of Romanesque, Classical and Art Nouveau architecture. In 1953 both the Grand Theatre and Grand Hotel (in the background) were demolished and replaced by a parking lot.

Textile collection

The Textile Collection includes flags, household linen, samples of embroidery, shoes, handbags, hats etc. Costumes in the collection consist mainly of women’s clothing from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. There is a small collection of men’s clothing, mainly suits and uniforms.  A large wedding gown collection which dates from 1830 to 1980 as well as some exquisite examples of Victorian and Edwardian period dress form part of this collection.

wedding gown
Wedding gown (ca.1867).

Toy collection

The small Toy Collection contains mainly dolls, model trains and cars as well as some games. The two eighteenth century wooden dolls (Vaderlandspoppe) and the South African manufactured Graaff-Reinet dolls are some of our most prized objects.

Painted wooden doll from the Netherlands, also known as a "Vaderlandspop" (ca.1760).

Transport collection

The Transport Collection contains coaches, wagons and carts. Most of these are on display in the Wagon Museum, 95 St George Street. 

cape cart
At the turn of the 19th century the Cape cart was one of the most popular vehicles in South Africa. The name (Afrikaans kapkar) refers to the tent-like hood of the vehicle.

Weaponry collection

The Weaponry Collection consists of two parts - firearms and swords. The firearm collection includes muzzle-loaders as well as breech-loading rifles dating back to the South African War (1899-1902).  The swords of Major Henry Warden, founder of Bloemfontein (1849), and Pres. J.H. Brand, fourth President of the Orange Free State (1864-1888) are some of the more valuable pieces in the sword collection.

Double-barrel percussion lock muzzle-loader made by William Powell & Son (ca.1860).

Loan Policy

The acceptance of material on loan implies that the following conditions have been accepted:

  • The National Museum retains the right to shorten the loan period or to retrieve the loaned material.
  • Loaned objects must be insured against damage, loss and deterioration. The institution accepting the loan is responsible for the insurance costs whilst the objects are in their possession. This includes transport from and to the National Museum.
  • Without the express written permission of the National Museum no material may be altered in any way, dissected, repaired, restored, cleaned or be treated.
  • The National Museum must be credited in any exhibition in which the borrowed material is used.
  • Under no circumstances can labels and other foreign objects be attached to objects to adjust or exhibit the objects. Foreign material includes pins, screws, nails, magic or mirror tape etc.
  • Objects must be protected against natural light, reflected light, Ultra-violet light, Infra red light, humidity, insects and other pests. Ultra violet sleeves must be in use over fluorescent tubes.
  • The National Museum should be informed of any changes relating to the responsible person(s) or management of the loan institution (within a month).
  • All labels and numbers given to material must be retained and under no circumstances should any of these be discarded or altered.
  • Photos may not be removed from their frames or mountings and the National Museum must be credited for the use of such photographs in publications.
  • The National Museum must be credited in any publication in which the borrowed material is used.  At least two copies of such publications must be sent to the National Museum.
  • When borrowed material is returned it must be packed in precisely the same way as it was received by using the same packaging materials.
  • Written permission to lengthen the loan period must be done fourteen days (14) before the expiring date of the loan.
  • All objects, excluding glass and ceramics, must be handled with white cotton gloves.
  • The loan material must be handled with the utmost care and respect.
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