Simon’s Town Museum’s Project Phoenix: A Journey towards Transformation from 1996 to 2010

By Cathrynne Salter-Jansen.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Simon’s Town Museum initiated Project Phoenix in 1996, to record and preserve the rich history of the former residents of Simon’s Town, who were forcibly removed from the town, under the Apartheid Regime’s Group Areas Act of 1967.

In addition to our indigenous community, the long occupations by the VOC from 1743 and then the British from 1806 respectively, resulted in a population that was very cosmopolitan. The Royal Navy established a permanent base at Simon’s Town in 1814 and its 143 year presence, rocketed Simon’s Town from a tiny, seasonal backwater, to a thriving, bustling, internationally renowned seaport, attracting people of diverse origins. Well over 200 years of intermarriage and social interaction, created an exceedingly diverse community, whose shared traditions, history and heritage could be unique in South Africa, if not the world!! The great tragedy of the Forced Removals under the Group Areas Act of 1967, was the devastation of the Simon’s Town community and in many cases, the very destruction of families.

In 1996 Simon’s Town Museum formed the Simon’s Town Phoenix Committee, consisting of former residents, museum staff and volunteers. We work together to ensure that our collections become more representative of our community. Together we collect oral histories, photographs and artefacts, specifically of those who had been displaced during the Apartheid Era.

We arrange for our displaced community to visit the Museum and participate in cultural activities, pertaining to our history. Trips to the Museum for children of former residents and from our disadvantaged areas, are organized and educational programmes link to our National Curriculum. We are consulted on heritage issues by officials, consultants and researchers etc., and have assisted many overseas students and academics with their theses and projects on Simon’s Town, its heritage, apartheid, community history and of course, the Forced Removals. Since the Land Restitution process began in 1994, the Museum has assisted claimants with evidence of occupation and removal from, their ancestral homes in Simon’s Town. Over the years, we have printed hundreds of copies of photographs, burial certificates and removal notices, for our displaced community, as our contribution to the restitution process.

One of our most poignant projects was the DNA Testing Project carried out as part of The Genographic Project, Sub-Saharan Africa, by the University of the Witwatersrand's Human Genetics Division. The project served to confirm and to celebrate what we as Simonites had always known - that we are a multi-cultural community of extremely diverse origins – the very essence of the Rainbow Nation!

Keywords: Simon’s, Town, Museum, Project, Phoenix, Apartheid

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 609.809KB).

Cathrynne Salter-Jansen

Curator, Simon’s Town Museum, Simon’s Town Museum, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Simon's Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Cathrynne has worked in the museum field since 1988. She has been involved with the development of Project Phoenix since 1996. Cathrynne has also assisted with land restitution issues and has initiated the Simon’s Town DNA Testing Project, under the Genographic Project of the University of the Witwatersrand. She also developed the Slave and Exile History Project, which deals with the history of slaves and exiles to Simon’s Town, as an offshoot of Project Phoenix. Cathrynne is also very interested in community history, indigenous knowledge systems and intangible heritage.


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