Richard Rive’s 1986 novel, Buckingham Palace, District Six, depicts life and characters in District Six during the 1950s and 60s, and shows their responses to the devastating removals under the Group Areas Act.
This truly sad, angry, nostalgic, yet sometimes funny novel formed the basis of the Buckingham Palace exhibition that was open to the public from March 1998 until May 2000. The exhibition opened at the Museum's Buitenkant Street premises on 24 March 1998, and was relocated to the Moravian Chapel in District Six at the end of December of the same year while the Buitenkant Street premises underwent restoration.
The Buckingham Palace exhibition was a tremendous success with both teachers and learners. The novel formed part of the school curriculum, and the exhibition was the Museum’s first focused attempt to fulfill an educational need. The project grew out of the demand by learners and teachers for information about District Six and the novel.
Rive's reasons for writing the novel were similar. He felt “a need to write a contemporary history, a record of what it was like to live in District Six.” The interest generated by the exhibition was phenomenal in that schools as far as Gauteng Province arrived in their busloads to learn the story of District Six.
Research for the exhibition was multi-faceted in that it not only focused on the book itself, but it was an eye-opener for students, who suddenly grew quite keen to do their projects because they felt that this kind of history was so close to home.