Named after Jonas Bergtheil, this museum is situated in the leafy suburb of Westville, almost midway between Durban and Pinetown. The museum is housed in Westville’s oldest building (c.1840) featuring massive stone walls and hand-hewn timber floorboards. Park like surroundings add an atmosphere of tranquility.
Exhibits focus on the first German settlers that Jonas Bergtheil brought to Natal as director of the Natal Cotton Company and their associations with the settlements of Westville, Claremont and New Germany.
The museum’s exhibitions center on the history of these Settlers and their contributions to the development of Westville, Clermont and New Germany. Artefacts on display include household items and workshop implements, whilst photographs and records document the gradual growth and success of the boroughs as well as the role of these settlers during the South African War (1899-1902) and the First and Second World Wars. The museum houses a reference library with a considerable collection of South African Military history.
Descendants of the ‘Bergtheil Settlers’ seeking to trace their ancestral history may visit the museum for assistance in tracing their family lineage. School groups and other interested parties are encouraged to book for guided tours and museum walkabouts, which will provide an insightful, informative journey into the development of Westville and surrounds, as well as into the lives of the Settlers and aspects of local culture.
Temporary exhibitions include vibrant displays of Hindu and Muslim matrimonial attire. Also on exhibition are artefacts from Umkomaas, Msinga and the Tugela areas including iZingqoko (wooden meat platters), iZinkamba (Zulu clay beer pots), iZimbenge (beer pot lids) and iZingqiki (wooden headrests) amongst other items. Fascinating archaeological finds which identify the age of the museum building, as well as other archaeological specimens such as the Buffalo skull from the Inanda area are also on view.
New exhibition “Who left this behind?” And the documentary DVD “River of Secret Lives” are currently on view at Bergtheil Museum.