About the War Museum

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Introduction to the Museum

In modern society suffering caused by war is still a reality. South Africa experienced this suffering during the Anglo-Boer War, also referred to as the South African War of 1899-1902. The outcome was bitterness, hatred, dispossession and division for many decades to come. More than a century later South Africans can look back at this event as a shared tragedy that shaped the social, political, economical and historical landscape of South Africa as we know it today.

In order to understand the history of South Africa, a visit to the War Museum is an absolute must. The War Museum not only provides the visitor with an insight into the course and development of the Anglo-Boer War through its unique collection and exhibitions, but it also brings the visitor closer to understanding the background against which the war took place and the universal suffering it caused.

To be an institution of excellence whereby the inclusivity and suffering of all communities during the Anglo-Boer War are depicted, thus propagating the message that negotiation is preferable to war.

To collect, curate and display items relating to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902; research, publications and education on this theme and cooperation with other organisations, nationally and internationally, in order to develop this theme.

History of the Museum

After the unveiling of the National Women’s Memorial in 1913 the National Women’s Memorial Committee was of the opinion that a museum, solely dedicated to the preservation of the Anglo-Boer War history and objects should be established. The architect, Frans Soff, was commissioned to design the building. The corner stone of the War Museum was laid on 26 April 1930 by Senator W.J.C. Brebner, the only living member of the original National Women’s Memorial Committee. During this time various projects were launched in South Africa as well as abroad in the Netherlands and Germany to collect rare and interesting objects, books, documents, and photographs pertaining to the Anglo-Boer War, on behalf of the museum. On 30 September 1931 the War Museum was officially opened by General J.B.M. Hertzog.

In 1934 the Museum was transferred to the Union Government and placed under the management of the Council of Curators of the National Museum in Bloemfontein, governed by a War Museum Council. On 1 April 1953 the War Museum became an independent museum with a Council of its own. In the following decades to come the museum was expanded by adding new exhibition halls, an administration block and an auditorium.