The Colesberg-Kemper Museum in Colesberg, Northern Cape, developed from a collection of curiosities and has grown into a fascinating store house of local history and contemporary information. This user-friendly museum is not a place where artefacts are just measured, catalogued and put away. Items are there to be looked at, talked about, and stories told. It is a place where the elderly come to share their memories, newcomers and tourists seek information, and children begin to appreciate and enjoy the past.
The building itself is a typical example of early Karoo architecture. Built as the Colesberg Bank in 1861, it became one of the first branches of `The Standard Bank of South Africa' to be established in this country in 1863. In 1940 it housed the Municipal Offices when the present Standard Bank was built. In 1975 the old building was made available to the Historical Society and the Colesberg-Kemper Museum came into being. The old bank hall is now the busy Colesberg Information Office and the remaining rooms house the museum collection.
The artefacts displayed are humble items that have little intrinsic value, but are just as important as a rare specimen to a natural history museum or a valuable painting to an art gallery. The significance is that the items depict the everyday lives of our great grandparents, our grandparents, our parents and even our own youth, successfully filling the gap that exists between local history and text-book history.
There is something for everyone in the museum - ranging from fossils deposited 250 million years ago, when South Africa's first terrestrial reptiles roamed the Karoo, a contemporary Karoo Nomad photographic exhibition assembled by Professor Michael de Jongh and his colleague Riana Steyn from the Department of Anthropology UNISA, to personal stories from Colesberg's share in the struggle during the 1980’ and early 90’s.
The old kitchen decorated with kitchen utensil from days gone by houses the Lilian Ngoyi ‘Karretjie’ Coffee Shop with a display of a restored Cape Cart, a 19th century horse-drawn hearse and farm implements on its door step. This is complimented with the Amachule Akwantu Arts and Craft Centre. Some of the most interesting objects and documents in the museum collection date are from the Anglo-Boer War period, when fierce battles raged around the town and many lives were lost, as the names inscribed on the graves and memorials in the Military Cemetery of the town testify.