Workers' Library and Museum

The Workers' Library and Museum was a non-profit labour service organisation (LSO) active in Johannesburg, South Africa between 1987 and the early 2000s.

HistoryEdit

It was founded in 1987 as an alternative to the racially segregated public library system under apartheid. [1] In 1994, it was relocated to premises in the Newtown district, adjacent to Mary Fitzgerald Square, and near the Market Theatre, MuseumAfrica and the national offices of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

Its buildings were a refurbished municipal compound (hostel) for black African migrant men workers, part of which was converted to a museum, and a few cottages for skilled white workers.[2] The buildings, a National Monument, were redesigned into meetings rooms, a museum, offices and a library space by architect, anti-apartheid activist and radical Allan Robert Lipman in association with Henry Paine, for which they were awarded the South African Institute of Architects Award (SAIA) for Excellence. [3]

ActivitiesEdit

In the late 1990s, the Workers' Library and Museum hosted numerous workshops, provided meeting space for unions and the new Anti-Privatisation Forum, attended the Johannesburg Local of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and ran tables at union events, and also launched a bookshop and t-shirt printing project [4] It also formed a partnership with Khanya College, another Johannesburg-based LSO. The Workers' Library and Museum was non-sectarian and inclusive, [5] and was run by an elected committee of members, who were unpaid volunteers, including anarchists, Trotskyists, COSATU members and people from the South African Communist Party. [6] Likewise, its Workers Bookshop included a wide range of materials, and was perhaps the only left-wing bookshop in Gauteng province at the time.

ClosureEdit

In the early 2000s, the Johannesburg Municipality withdrew its previous subsidies to the Workers Library and Museum which had taken the form of rebates on service charges, rent and taxes, and the project closed. The book collection is now housed at the offices of Khanya College, while the premises are now the Workers' Museum, run by the municipality for tourists and schools. [7] [8] This was part of a larger decline in the LSO movement, and of left spaces and infrastructure countrywide post-apartheid.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Workers' Library and Museum, 2002, 'The Workers’ Library and Museum, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa: Advancing workers’ education and culture', https://web.archive.org/web/20020824055444/http://free.freespeech.org/workers_library/index.htm /
  2. ^ Workers' Library and Museum, 2002, 'The Workers’ Library and Museum, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa: Advancing workers’ education and culture', https://web.archive.org/web/20020824055444/http://free.freespeech.org/workers_library/index.htm /
  3. ^ South African History Online, 'Alan Robert Lipman', https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/alan-robert-lipman
  4. ^ Southern African Anarchist & Syndicalist History Archive, 22 October 2014, '[UPDATED] Adverts for Workers Library and Museum mention Bikisha, Zabalaza Books', https://saasha.net/2014/10/22/advert-for-workers-library-and-musem-mentions-bikisha-zabalaza-books/
  5. ^ Workers' Library and Museum, 2002, 'The Workers’ Library and Museum, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa: Advancing workers’ education and culture', https://web.archive.org/web/20020824055444/http://free.freespeech.org/workers_library/index.htm /
  6. ^ Southern African Anarchist & Syndicalist History Archive, 12 May 2018, 'Notes and posters from the Workers’ Library & Museum that was', https://saasha.net/2018/05/12/repost-notes-and-posters-from-the-workers-library-museum-that-was/
  7. ^ Why Joburg, 'Getaways: The Workers Museum', http://www.whyjoburg.com/workers-museum.html
  8. ^ Newton Heritage Trail, "Workers' Museum', http://newtown.co.za/heritage/view/index/workers_museum