The District Six Museum opened its doors in the old church of the Central Methodist Church Mission at 25A Buitenkant Street on the 10 December 1994. The exhibition with which it opened was called Streets: retracing District Six. Described as the ‘archaeology of memory’, the Museum and the exhibition was the culmination of years of planning, dreaming and imagining on the part of the District Six Museum Foundation.
The most important feature of this exhibition was the 75 authentic street signs which hung in three laddered columns as a backdrop to the street map - a tangible reminder of ’home’. It signposted nothing but our memories and treasured experiences of a past District Six.
There were three boxes displaying archaeological artefacts directly below the street signs. They represented fragments of everyday life in Horstley Street, collected and installed by archaeological students from the University of Cape Town.
Taking a closer look at the alcoves we were re introduced to five streets - Hanover Street, Horstley Street, Tyne Street, Vernon Terrace, and Constitution Street. We were taken on a journey through these streets: family photo albums lined the walls and drew us into the intimacy of personal histories and stories.
Exterior facades of Westminster Café, a house on Horstley Street, Vernon Terrace, a house on Tyne Street, and a shop in Hanover Street allowed viewers to look through tiny windows to explore the interior spaces of a typical kitchen area, lounge, shop/café, and a carpentry workshop.
Upstairs in the gallery hung parallel rows of large transparent portraits of well-known ex-residents: Bennie Kies, Principal of Trafalgar High School; Dr Abdurahman, founder of the African People's Organisation; his daughter Cissy Gool who was a member of the Cape Town City Council, Alex La Guma, a writer and many more. Digging Deeper, the current permanent exhibition, replaced Streets: Revisiting District Six in 2000.