About us

A brief history of the South African Museums Association

The inspiration to form the Association can be traced back to a recommendation of the Carnegie Trust report which related to their 1932 survey of the status of commonwealth museums in Africa. The recommendation called for better co-operation between museums and provided the stimulus for a meeting in Kimberly on 23 April 1936 at which 22 individuals representing 19 institutions agreed to form a museums association.

The constitution listed the following aims:

  1. to improve and extend the museum service in South Africa;
  2. to encourage helpful relations amongst museums of all kinds…,
    other educational and kindred institutions, and persons interested
    in the aims and objects of the Association; and
  3. to increase and diffuse knowledge of all matters relating to museums
    and art galleries and to apply such knowledge to South African

The growth and structure of the association is reflected in the formation of local branches : Western Cape (1975) followed by the Transvaal, Eastern Cape (1982), Kwa-Zulu Natal (1984) and SAMA  Central (1991) to serve the Free State and Northern Cape. After 1994 further groups were formed in Gauteng North and South, Mpumalanga, Northern Province and North-West.

From inception SAMA saw its role as regional, rather than purely South African in scope and membership was open to all museum workers regardless of nationality. In order to make itself accessible to members north of the Limpopo during the apartheid years, and to retain contact with the mainstream museum movement, SAMA officially changed its name to Southern African Museums Association (1975 to 1995).  In standing by its principles SAMA frequently conflicted with official “own affairs” policy and, after bitter confrontation at the 51st Conference, strongly re-affirmed its position in the 1987 Pietermaritzburg Declaration for South African museums.

Concurrent with the I987 declaration SAMA embarked on its own process of democratisation. The constitution was amended in 1900 to make provision tor election of branch representatives to Council and objectives expanded to include encouragement of museological research, promoting the use of museums, furthering of professional training, and safeguarding the interests of members.

Over the past seventy-nine years, conferences and workshops have been held regularly in all regions, the contributions of which are reflected in the associations bulletin “SAMAB” as well as the associations various national and regional newsletters.

During 2016 the Association will celebrate 80 years of proudly serving and contributing to the development of the South African Museologial Profession.