The nucleus of the Voortrekker Museum was established in 1912 in the Church of the Vow which had been built in 1840 to fulfill the vow the Voortrekkers had made to God before the Battle of Blood River, or Ncome, that, if he would grant them victory, they would build a Church in his honour. The museum houses many Voortrekker relics including a water bottle and Bible, which belonged to Piet Retief and were found at KwaMatiwane, where he and his party had been killed on the orders of King Dingane.
Since the early 1990s, the museum has evolved into a multi-cultural institution showcasing the history of all of the people of the province. The museum now also consists of the former Longmarket Girls’s School, which houses the administration and a number of displays, the Shiva Indian Temple, which is an exact replica of the Groutville Shiva Perumal temple, built by Perumal Naicker in 1937, a Zulu hut in the museum yard, Andries Pretorius’ House built in 1842, and, at 333 Boom Street, the oldest double-storey house in Pietermaritzburg.
Among the unique treasures on display in the Voortrekker Museum are King Dingane’s chair, carved from a single piece of wood, his headrest and some beads found in the remains of his palace at Mgungundlovu. There is also what is reputed to be the second-oldest wagon in South Africa, built in 1824 and used by Voortrekker Albert Smit during the Great Trek, and a number of sculptures by Mary Stainbank.