In 2016 the board of trustees of the Pietermaritzburg-based Macrorie House Museum announced the closure of the facility. The board subsequently informed the Heritage Association of South Africa (successor in title of the Simon van der Stel Foundation) of its intention to sell the property and offered HASA council first option to purchase the site in line with a restrictive condition dating back to 1992 when the trustees acquired the property from the Foundation.
In March 2018, following a dispute between the parties, HASA and the trustees reached an agreement whereby proceeds from the sale of the property will be shared equally between the two organisations.
“We are pleased to have resolved this matter amicably and that the sale of the house can proceed. This will allow for funds to be channelled to the future care of the collection from the Macrorie House Museum, while the Heritage Association of South Africa will receive a much-needed boost to its coffers,” says former HASA chairperson Len Raymond, who spearheaded the negotiations.
The Macrorie House Museum occupied three historic properties including the house of 19th century Bishop William Macrorie. Since the closure of the museum, the trustees have transferred the collection to the Baynesfield Museum on Baynesfield Estate.
“While we are glad that the matter has been resolved, we are obviously saddened by the closure of the museum, which reflects a national crisis facing the sector with many local museums being forced to close owing to a lack of funding. This is becoming a national crisis if recent estimates are correct that more than 50 local museums have closed over the past few years,” Raymond says.