Collections, Research and

Documentation Department

Donor: Mike Arendse


The archive collects all material and oral culture related to District Six, spanning the period from the 1940s up until the 1990s. Most items are collected in project and workshop contexts in which former residents share keepsakes and memories of life in District Six. 

Discrete photographic collections, taken by photographers as they documented life in or surveyed the area, also form part of the collection. Collections may consist of one or two family mementos or larger bodies of work that include up to 800 photographic prints.

Artwork in the collection includes work by Lionel Davis, Rod Sauls, Gerard Sekoto and Sandra McGregor. The area was also well documented by community artists, either after the removals as a way of processing their loss or simply to document daily life in the area.

For access to the general collection contact 

The Sound Archive


The Sound Archive is testimony to the spirit of former residents, trustees and community-based researchers who encouraged the collection and recording of stories in the Museum’s formative years.  It has developed from initiating an informal practice of collecting memory to managing a sustained programme of facilitating oral histories and documenting museum related work. Research areas include  Cape Jazz and other genres of music, carnival and life histories. The documentation of oral histories is also facilitated by the Exhibitions and Education departments and this includes a focus on food and memory, expressive arts, intergenerational storytelling and the everyday experience of Apartheid.

The Sound Archive has generated an extensive institutional archive that holds information on the various memory methodology workshops, conferences and symposia organised by or held in the Museum. Topics are diverse and range from discussions about memory work, oral history and the development of a community-based museum practice, as well as public discussions around gentrification, performing identity, public history, the Palestinian solidarity movement and slavery in the city.

For access to audio visual material contact the Sound Archivist at

The Resource Centre

A significant percentage of the Museum’s collection exists as documentary evidence of people’s lives in District Six and in the greater Cape Town. It includes newspaper records, original identity cards, posters, pamphlets, as well as original correspondence and legal documents. The Resource Centre is a gateway for learners and researchers who need to access documentary and educational material on District Six. Access to copies of original documents may be provided on request.

The following resources are available:

  • Books
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Academic papers and theses
  • General articles about District Six
  • Planning documents related to the redevelopment of District Six
  • Archival documentary material
  • General Museum resources (annual reports, network and partnership documents)
  • Transcripts of oral history interviews

For access to the Resource Centre collection contact 

The following links are useful for those searching for documents to support their land claims:

1. The Western Cape Provincial Archives and Records Services

For birth / death certificates or documents of the Department of Community Development (the administrative body that oversaw the forced removals).

2. Deeds Registry Office, Western Cape

For title deeds for property owners

Research and Access to the



Photographer: Towfiek Toefy


Research is at the heart of the Museum and occurs in different forms and settings. It is present through a memory methodology that uses mapping, oral history and action research approaches to facilitate reunions, exhibitions, education and intergenerational programmes with District Sixers, and other Capetonians with a special focus on young people. Research is not only a means to deepen knowledge about District Six but is important in generating action and building sustainable public participation and engagement with the legacy of District Six. All Museum departments participate in research.

Current and ongoing research areas include:

    • Restitution and redevelopment in District Six
    • District Six historical site register
    • Horstley Street (proposed site of the District Six Memorial Park)
    • Music and carnival traditions in District Six
    • Food and memory in District Six
    • Van Kalker photographic collection
    • Historic and currents sites of forced removal in Cape Town
    • LGBTIQ culture in District Six


The archive contains many fragments representative of the rich community and family life in District Six. We use these items in memory methodology workshops with former residents, but also make them available to those conducting research within the ethical framework set out by the Museum.

    Usage Fees

    • Concessions are available to former residents and their families, and for the non-commercial (educational) use of selected material.
    • For commercial concerns, photographic and audio visual material is available for reproduction at commercial rates.

    Access for the public

    Former residents, learners and members of the general public can visit the Museum’s Resource Centre or email for information.

    Access for graduate scholars

    General research access for graduate students requires the following:

    • Acceptance of the Ethical Framework set out by the Museum below
    • A brief dissertation abstract or project description
    • Confirmation of registration from the relevant university department

    Ethical Framework

    The District Six Museum Foundation was established in 1989 and launched as a museum in 1994, to keep alive the memories of District Six and displaced people everywhere. It came into being as a vehicle for advocating social justice, as a space for reflection and contemplation, and as an institution for challenging the distortions and half-truths which propped up the history of Cape Town and South Africa. As an independent space where the forgotten understandings of the past are resuscitated, where different interpretations of that past are facilitated through its collections, exhibitions and education programmes, the Museum is committed to telling stories of forced removals and assisting in the reconstitution of the community of District Six and the greater Cape Town by drawing on a heritage of non-racialism, non-sexism, anti-class discrimination, and the encouragement of debate.

    As it grows and develops, the Museum remains committed to these objectives and re-dedicates itself to being a sustainable institution of reflection, contestation and social justice. So too, as the poor and the dispossessed return to the city as a consequence of land restitution, the Museum commits itself to deepening its memory work by supporting and facilitating the reconstruction of the landscape and community of District Six in both material and cultural terms. At the same time, the Museum commits itself to working with other bodies to achieve these objectives and to serving as a resource for independent, community-based heritage projects elsewhere in South Africa. 

    The Museum is committed to conducting and supporting research that falls within the above framework. It serves as a methodological and conceptual guide for all research undertaken under the auspices of and in association with the District Six Museum. This refers to all types of research, and particularly to research involving living research participants.

    The Museum encourages research that serves the general interests of the community at large, and which leads to greater understanding and affirmation of the experiences of all people. Research supported by the Museum should always be characterised by:

    • Scholarly integrity
    • Social responsibility
    • Respect for the dignity and self-esteem of individuals
    • Regard for human rights and
    • Clearly specified standards of conduct

    While the Museum has no powers of approval or rejection of individual research proposals, it reserves the right to withhold its support for any research projects which reflect a position which is in direct, indirect or potential violation of the above. This also applies to research projects which promote narrowness of interpretation and racial disharmony.

    For any queries please contact


    Chrischené Julius, Collections Manager

    Dean Jates, Sound Archivist

    Wilton Schereka, Collections Assistant

    Ivor Solomons, Technical Assistant