GRAAFF-REINET NEWS - The Graaff-Reinet Museum has been dealt a potentially crippling blow by the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of lockdown regulations on the effective operation of the museum.
The buildings have been closed to the public since 18 March. "The pandemic has brought us to our knees as we have not been able to generate any income," said the museum head, Anziske Kayster.
"The museum has experienced fundamental financial problems for many years now," explained Peter Whittaker, the chairman of the board of trustees. He ascribed these problems to several causes, including the fact that the provincial subsidy has not been escalated, in line with inflation, for the last ten years.
"The museum has managed to keep its doors open, before lockdown, through the implementation of blanket austerity measures to keep running costs in check, and the maximising of income from admission fees," continued Whitlock. The only current source of income is rental from letting space in the Old Library to the tourism office.
The provincial subsidy for the 2020/2021 financial year has not yet been paid. This makes it impossible for the museum to reopen, even though this may soon be permitted by the government.
The board and administration have attempted to negotiate payment holidays from various service providers, notably the local municipality, Telkom and the museum's insurers, and also to access emergency funding. Whitlock reports that neither strategy has met with success to date.
Kayster is one of only three women holding the post of Head of Museum in the Eastern Cape, and when she was appointed to the position in 2006 she was also the youngest museum head in the province. Although she would probably deny it, it is the drive and enthusiasm of this remarkable woman that has made the museum such an important asset to Graaff-Reinet.
She has already planned some of the changes that will need to take place, should funding be available to reopen. All research inquiries will only be done electronically, and the archive will not be open to the public. Also, not all museums will be open to the public every day, initially perhaps only Reinet House, and a limited number of visitors would be allowed at any one time. In faith, she has submitted her requirements for the reopening to DSRAC, such as signage, thermometers and perspex screens for the reception.
"At the moment, we could not even afford to buy sanitiser," she said.
"The board remains hopeful that we will be able to weather the current storm and ultimately emerge as a stronger and more viable institution," concluded Whitlock.
'We bring you the latest Graaff Reinet, Karoo news'