Disrupting context: Making a case for the digital curation of classical antiquities in South Africa

  • Samantha Masters University of Stellenbsch
  • Thandi Welman University of Stellenbosch


This paper suggests that lessons can be learned from both the failed Red Location Museum, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with regard to the curation of collections of classical artefacts in South African museums. Once considered more important, these artefacts have now fallen out of synch with the current museological trends to exhibit local and neglected histories. The antiquities are now cultural ‘orphans’, mostly boxed up and in storage, a sign of their lack of ‘relevance’ to the immediate South African context. Digitising the collection and creating a virtual museum of classical antiquities with open access will allow the pieces to be viewed without being offensive to their immediate context which currently views them as less relevant than before. In doing so it is possible to create new contexts for the reception, appreciation and ultimately, preservation of such orphan collections.