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National Afrikaans Literary

National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre (NALN)

The Afrikaanse Letterkundige Museum en Navorsingsentrum/ National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre (NALN) is established in 1973. The NALN is the custodian of the largest collection at a single institution of material pertaining to the Afrikaans literature and related arts. It ranges from books, manuscripts, media clippings, divers printed categories like programmes, posters and paraphernalia, magazines and periodicals, visual art works, iconographic and audio-visual material, etc. to the preserved contents of various authors’ studies with furniture, personalia and curiosa echoing their life and times as individuals and creative artists. The institute is museologically preserving, documenting and reflecting a rich literary corpus dating back to the 17th century’s Dutch era and pre-colonial roots, capturing linguistic blending of West, East and Africa, and highlighting a vibrant and dynamic literary production over especially the past 100 years.

An information and research-supporting service is rendered, drawing on unique electronic data bases and documented information on more than 1,200 published creative authors, as well as music and theatre personalities, and their work. Since 1996, NALN prioritised its focus on the so-called Black (including Brown/Coloured) Afrikaans authors, extending the database and collection of their works. In 1994 NALN also initiated the idea of a literary museum for Sesotho (like Afrikaans, one of the country’s 11 official languages). After having it officially announced in 1999 and after achieving some substantial outputs through NALN’s staff and budget since then, the Sesotho Literary Museum (SLM) entered its operational phase in 2006.

In the absence of a body of governance, NALN’s stakeholders desperately struggle to retain the museum’s national and international profile and mandate, and obstinately cling to a vision and mission characterised by comprehensiveness, a holistic approach and a commitment to the classical concept of a museum proper as a permanent, collection-based institution guided by museum-ethical principles. Following on a gradual downscaling in priority and loss of capacity over the past 20 years (though some ‘golden years’ during the period 1998 – 2004), a drastic restructuring in 2007 resulted in the immediate loss of 50% of professional capacity left. Departmentally the name was changed to Afrikaans Literary Museum (ALM), and it is now being operated as a regional institution within the Free State Province. Literary stakeholders and organisations on the Afrikaans academic and cultural landscape started a support process, seeking constructive dialogue with government in the best interest of NALN’s future. At the same time, an initial abortive renovation of the historical museum building since 2002 resulted in a six year long disruption of museum activities, and 1,500m2 of exhibitions had to be removed. This leaves the museum with the challenge of conceptualising and developing a total new generation of exhibitions, displaying a new, re-written story-line of the Afrikaans literature from the perspective of the post-1994 democratic dispensation. An exciting challenge – yet, without much internal intellectual, professional and technical capacity left, and without any budget for this mammoth task.