As Robben Island Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it is focusing on its tour guide service.
The museum launched its Integrated Tour Guiding Model on Wednesday July 28, at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront.
Guests were taken on a tour of the museum and shown where prisoners were kept before being sent to Robben Island prison.
The implementation of the Integrated Tour Guiding Model is one of the projects planned for this year.
Since 1997, the Robben Island Museum has had two guide categories for tourists.
There were general guides taking people on the bus tour and the prison guides who are former political prisoners showing people the maximum security prison.
Now one guide will accompany visitors on both the island and prison tour.
“This integrated approach eliminates previous overlaps and duplications between the island and prison tours,” the museum said in a press release. “All our guides have undergone intense skills and accredited development to enable them to easily narrate stories of the island’s rich heritage: both of the island generally and from the prison specifically.”
Robben Island Museum Chief Heritage Officer Pascall Taruvinga, said Robben Island was a living museum and the former political prisoners had a life long-standing relationship with the island.
He said they needed then to continue playing that role but they also need to plan for the future as the former political prisoners were not getting any younger.
Their stories would eventually have to be told by other trained guides so it was important their stories were recorded.
Asked why visitors to Robben Island didn’t get to see the house where Robert Sobukwe was kept incarcerated in isolation, Mr Taruvinga it was because there wasn’t enough time during tours.
“Most of the time we get a large group while Robert Sobukwe’s house is too small. It has only two rooms and can only accommodate 10 people comfortably. That takes a lot of time to split the group and see the house. However, we are working on ensuring that private visitors do see the house as they are a small group”, said Mr Taruvinga.
The museum is also training tour guides to speak foreign languages such as German and Mandarin to ensure that they are able to accommodate tourists who don’t speak English.