Named after the hill at the base of which the museum is situated, "Talana" meaning "the shelf where precious items are stored" is a most appropriate name for this large and varied museum. Started in 1979 to commemorate the Anglo Zulu war, the small collection moved to the present site at the beginning of 1983. A 20 acre section of "Dundee" farm, bought in 1982, for the development of a museum to commemorate the centenary of Dundee, includes the home and farmsteading of one of the founders of the town, the site of the first coal mining activity in this area and portion of the Talana battlefield.
The Smith cottage provides an evocative picture of the lives of the hardy pioneer farmers. A founder of Dundee, Peter Smith, farmed and mined coal on this site. His restored home and farm buildings house cultural, agricultural and transport displays. The displays of weapons, uniforms, photographs and artifacts dramatically depict the conflict between the Zulu, Boer and Brit, as well as an insight into the Bushmen, the earliest settlers of the region.
Glass has been manufactured in this valley since the end of the 19th century. Although the factory no longer exists, the museum is home to a magnificent collection of glass from around the world and South Africa. A superb collection of beadwork depicting the cultures of the many different African groups and the use of beads in all Indian and western cultures in South Africa, may be viewed in the Bead Gallery.
Dundee became the heart of the richest coal producing area in the country. Nicknamed "Coalopolis" the town expanded rapidly and the reconstructed town square and some of the shops, vividly recalls these times. The first organised coal mining in South Africa was begun by the Dundee Coal Company (registered on the London Stock exchange in 1889), on the slopes of Talana Hill. The remains of coal mines that created the rich and vibrant economy of the area still mark the hillsides and valleys. Today the museum has four extensive coal exhibits depicting the many aspects of coal mining in this area and preserving the proud and unique heritage of our mining history.
The Talana station complex comprises the reconstructed Talana station. A Class 13A locomotive and the Shosholoza carriage. Shosholoza can be hired for small functions.
Talana Museum boasts a comprehensive range of archival material relating to the town, region, coal mining and military conflicts in this area over the past two centuries. Researchers have access to these records. The Museum Shop offers a variety of quality, locally produced products to suit every requirement. An extensive selection of books relating to the military history of the region, locally made beadwork and baskets and a wide variety of other crafts , are among many items available.
A superb bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi, sculpted in India and donated to the museum by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, commemorates his involvement in this area in the early 20th C. This memorial, adjacent to a pond, in the parklike grounds of the museum, offers a place of quiet contemplation and reflection of a great man and his contribution to humanity. The 1913 Passive Resistance movement exhibit, takes a further and deeper look into the life of Gandhi and the start of his passive resistance movement. On 11 November 1913, in Dundee, he was tried for the first time in a court in South Africa and was sentenced to 90 days imprisonment or a fine of 60 pounds. He chose imprisonment. A new museum -the Gandhi Museum - in the Heritage Court house in town showcases the life and times of Gandhi, his involvement in Dundee, the two trials in the Court house where he was sentenced to fines and/or imprisonment and the people involved in his life.
The Great War exhibit opened on 4 August 2014 commemorates the involvement of Dundee men in the war and puts the South African involvement into context.
The permanent exhibit on Orange Grove Dairy, a local business founded in 1927, is a "proudly Dundee" tale, has been incorporated into a new exhibit, Dundee Heritage. Sponsored by Orange grove Dairy this exhibit showcases the history of Dundee and area from 1882-2000. It includes Glencoe, Sibongile and a host of the different organisations that existed in the town. A small theatre portrays the life and times of the town and its theatrical history.
Kwakunje Cultural Village portrays the traditional lifestyle of a Zulu family and shows how culture changes over time, but also those elments of the culture that have adapted or remained unchanged.
The Miners' Rest restaurant serves delicious meals, in a pre-1914 corrugated iron, miners home, that was relocated from Ballengeich mine, in our district. Although quaint and characterful it has a wide spread reputation for service and quality of meals. Catering for individuals, groups or functions are handled with flair and friendliness.