We are a proudly South African Museum that reflects a multifaceted view on South Africa’s history. In recording, commemorating and celebrating our common past, we hope to create a collective pride in a democratic South Africa.

After the honeymoon period of democracy, South Africa finds itself at exciting times in creating monuments and museums that finally honour previously marginalized citizens. Places like the Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, Freedom Park, the District Six Museum and the 1860 Heritage Museum commemorate exciting spaces where new narratives of our South African history are being created. The 1860 Heritage Museum intends to finally recognize and honour heroes and heroines of our forgotten and troubled past.


Throughout history, human migrations, voluntary or involuntary, have always had a fascinating tale to tell. Communities in every part of the world have experienced the consequences of human migration and the reshaping of history that comes with it. This history comes with pain and suffering of people who gave up the known, for the unknown in their search for a better life. This quest for a better life is explored in the 1860 Heritage Museum.

Indentured indians landing

The Vision of the Centre

The 1860 Heritage Centre seeks to position itself as the organisation that best showcases the rich heritage of Indian South Africans, within the diversity that makes up South Africa’s national heritage. It further envisions itself as an important building block in developing national cohesion and contributing to nation building. We hope to establish the 1860 Heritage Centre as a primary research base for Indentured History by locating all archives, documentation and research on indenture at the centre.  We hope to develop new perspectives on Indentured History by creating a platform for academic endeavours. It is hoped that the Museum develops into an important space for critical deliberations of different aspects of our past, as we forge a common South Africa society in the present and the future.

Mission Statement

The 1860 Heritage Centre strives to document, preserve and record aspects of the South African Indian Community as part of our collective national heritage and identity. It seeks to do so by using multi-media technologies and methodologies best suited for the achievement of the same, as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The History of the Building Complex

The origin of the building complex dates back to 1913 when architect Percy Eagle designed a school to accommodate 325 pupils. The original building with its embellished gables, arcaded verandah and decorative bell turrets on steeply pitched, hipped roofs is a fine example of Herbert Baker influenced architecture. The building enjoys “listed” status by the National Monument’s Council.


In the latter part of the 1980s, this school building was left vacant. In 1992 it was taken over by the Culture Directorate of the ex HOD that renovated and modified the building to accommodate a new facility called the Durban Cultural & Documentation Centre. Community representatives were appointed to the Centre’s Board of Management. This Centre was opened in 1993 by the KZN Department of Education and Culture to house the heritage collection of 1860 Indentured Indians and subsequently, South Africans of Indian origin. A working committee initiated the collection of artifacts and archival data. A decade later the Centre closed to enable the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture to relocate to this site, resulting in the heritage collection being moved to the Pietermaritzburg Archives.

Concerned community members responded by establishing a Steering Committee tasked with the objective of reopening the Centre. After eight years of negotiations with the Department of Arts and Culture, the Centre was returned to the community. The sterling work of the Steering Committee resulted in the establishment of a Board of Directors who provided the initial direction in starting a new chapter that is now called the 1860 Heritage Centre.

Board of Directors: Krish Gokool (Chairman),Dr Juggie Pather (Ex-Chair), A.V Mohammed, Satish Duphelia, Vasugie Singh, Ashwin Trikamjee, Nanda Soobben, Bala Naidoo, Saren Padayachee, Nirode Bramdaw & Anith Maharaj.

Honorary Curator of Exhibitions: Selvan Naidoo

Administrator: Yatin Singh

The Centre was officially launched on the 30 May 2017.

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