National History Museum
 
 

News

  • The First World War (1914-1918)

    2 September 2014
    Gas masks from the First World War
    Gas masks from the First World War

    The First World War (1914-1918) shaped the twentieth century.  Nothing like it had ever been seen before.  The war is remembered largely because it caused such massive loss of life—estimated at over 16 million.  To mark the centenary of the “Great War” (2014–2018), the National Museum has a temporary exhibition that will run until the end of the year.  The exhibition focuses on South Africa’s involvement in the War, such as the battle for Delville Wood where many South Africans lost their lives, and the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917 where over 600 South Africans died.  At the same time, the refusal of Boer commanders to invade German South-West Africa lead to the Rebellion of 1914, and this event also forms part of the exhibition.  Black-and-white photographs capture the stark reality of the war and some unique First World War objects are on display, for example a FUG boot (thigh-length fleece-lined aviator's boot), gloves and cap worn by air force pilots, British and German memorabilia such as gas masks and uniforms, and even a French Adrian helmet (a metal helmet to protect soldiers in trenches from shrapnel, credited to Intendant-General August-Louis Adrian).

  • Basotho blankets on display at Oliewenhuis Art Museum

    6 June 2014
    Display of Basotho blankets
    Display of Basotho blankets

    15 May – 6 July 2014

    The Basotho blanket collection was made available on loan to the National Museum by the Robertson family from Ladybrand, who traded in Basotho blankets.  The uniqueness of this collection lies in its antiquity.  The collection includes a Sandringham mountain rug, or Mohodu, dating back to 1934, a Badges of the Brave blanket honouring those who fought in World War II (1939-1945) and a Batho ba Roma blanket made to commemorate Pope John Paul’s visit to Lesotho in 1988.  But certainly the most prestigious blanket in the collection is the Victoria England / Seanamarena or ‘chief’s blanket’.  Production of this type of blanket is restricted, making it more expensive and therefore a much sought after item.


     

     

  • NEW BATHO EXHIBITION OPENED FESTIVELY

    19 December 2013
    Part of the new Batho exhibition.
    Part of the new Batho exhibition.

    The National Museum in Bloemfontein boasts a new permanent exhibition. On 6 December an exhibition focusing on the history of Bloemfontein’s oldest existing township, Batho, was opened amid huge public interest. The official opening was preceded by a ceremony that included song and dance. Students from a local dance academy performed a dance drama depicting the township jive era of the 1940s and 1950s, and a choir of elderly Batho residents sang the well-known song ‘Mangaung’.

    Batho exhibition
    Mrs Aria Motlolometsi and a young visitor at the Batho exhibition
    The exhibition depicts the history of Batho in an interactive and visually exciting manner. Particularly striking is a realistic replica of a red brick house typical to Batho as well as a life-size projection of a short film shot in one of Batho’s streets. Visitors may also listen to sound clips from interviews conducted with Batho residents or read the transcribed text. This is possible thanks to audio-visual equipment sponsored by the Belgian and Flemish governments. Unique objects donated by Batho residents, such as an original pass book, are also on display.  

    Furthermore, a temporary photographic exhibition, giving a unique view of Batho and its residents, is on display in the Museum’s foyer. Most of the photographs were taken by the well-known Belgian photographer Johan Voets.

    For more information please contact Derek du Bruyn (051-4479609).


     

  • Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

    12 December 2013
    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

    18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

    The Council and staff of the National Museum, a South African heritage institution of excellence, join millions of people throughout the world to pay tribute to the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Not only do we share in mourning Madiba’s passing, but we also share in celebrating an exceptional life that has touched so many. We share a common responsibility to ensure that Madiba’s legacy lives on. We offer our sincere condolences to the Mandela family. Thank you, Tata Madiba and may you rest in peace.


     

  • New Batho exhibition takes shape

    18 November 2013

    The new Batho exhibition currently under construction in the National Museum is making good progress.  A team of experts, including Jeanine Visser of the Museum’s Design Department and staff members of the Museum’s workshop, are working long hours to construct, among other things, a replica of a typical Batho house.  The objective is to recreate the atmosphere of an old Batho street scene complete with red brick buildings and a gravel road.  Multimedia hardware and sound equipment, sponsored by the Flemish Government’s The Power of Stories Project, will also be incorporated into the display, so that visitors can be offered an interactive museum experience.

    The exhibition will be officially opened on 6 December 2013.  The opening function will be attended by Mr Bruno Neuville and two colleagues from Thomas More University College in Mechelen, Belgium.  There has been a long-standing collaboration between the National Museum and Thomas More University College since 2008, and the opening of this exhibition is one of the highlights of this collaboration.    

     

     


     

  • NEW BATHO EXHIBITION TAKING SHAPE

    8 November 2013
    The new Batho exhibition under construction in the National Museum
    The new Batho exhibition under construction in the National Museum

    The new Batho exhibition that is currently under construction in the National Museum is making good progress.  A team of experts, including Jeanine Visser of the Museum’s Design Department and members of the Museum’s workshop, are working long hours to construct, among other things, a replica of a typical Batho house.  The objective is to recreate the atmosphere of an old Batho street scene complete with red brick buildings and a gravel street.  Multimedia hardware and sound equipment will also be incorporated into the display so that visitors can be offered an interactive museum experience.  The exhibition will be officially opened on 6 December 2013.

  • Greatest mass extinction responsible for the making of modern mammals

    19 September 2013
    Two juveniles of the Early Triassic cynodont Thrinaxodon. Photo: Roger Smith
    Two juveniles of the Early Triassic cynodont Thrinaxodon. Photo: Roger Smith

    The ancient closest relatives of mammals — the cynodont therapsids — not only survived the greatest mass extinction of all time, 252 million years ago, but thrived in the aftermath, according to new research.

    Cynodonts, the ancient closest relatives of mammals, arose during the Late Permian, and then diversified steadily through the Triassic. Their fossils have been found on every continent, but they are especially well known from South Africa, Argentina, and Russia. The cynodonts, not only survived the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, which was the greatest mass extinction of all time, but thrived in the aftermath. After the extinction, the cynodonts radiated dramatically through the Triassic to form two new major groups namely the cynognathians and the probainognathians. They occupied many new ecological roles, the cynognathians being mostly herbivorous and the probainognathians being mostly carnivorous. It is from this latter group that the first true mammals arose. The first mammals evolved over 225 million years ago, and include small shrew-like animals such as Megazostrodon from South Africa, Morganucodon from England, and Bienotherium from China. They had fur, differentiated teeth (incisors, canines, molars), large brains, and were probably endothermic, all characteristics which contribute to their huge success today.

    However, new research suggests that this array of unique features arose step-wise over a long time span, and that the first mammals may have arisen as a result of the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, 252 million years ago, which wiped out 90 per cent of marine organisms and 70 per cent of terrestrial species. Although mass extinctions are usually seen as entirely negative, in this case, the cynodonts, which were rare before the extinction, radiated to fill many different niches during the Triassic. The cynognathians radiated rapidly following the mass extinction and continued to do so throughout their history. However, although the probainognathians also diversified rapidly after the mass extinction, their rates of evolutionary change decreased steadily through the Triassic. The cynognathians went extinct during the Late Triassic, but the probainognathians continued to evolve and eventually gave rise to the first mammals some 25 million years after the mass extinction.

    It is traditionally thought that mammals experienced a "burst" of evolutionary innovation, and that the first mammals would have had obvious features that clearly set them apart from their ancestors, the cynodonts. However, they were found to be so similar to other cynodonts that it would be difficult to discern the first mammals from the latest cynodonts. These results suggest that cynodont diversification went through two phases: an initial phase characterised by rapid evolutionary rates or "early bursts" (in the case of most cynognathians and early probainognathians) and a second, prolonged or "long fuse" phase for the more slowly evolving groups such as most probainognathians and the earliest mammals.

    This research is published in Ruta M., Botha-Brink J., Mitchell S.A., Benton M.J. 2013. The radiation of cynodonts and the ground plan of mammalian morphological diversity, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  It is also available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.1865

    Image

    Two juveniles of the Early Triassic cynodont Thrinaxodon. (Courtesy of Roger Smith, Iziko Museums of South Africa Social History / Natural History / Art Collections).

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Night at the Museum

    5 August 2013

    Come and experience the Museum at night

    It’s happening again!  The exhibitions in the National Museum will be coming “alive” during our fourth “Night at the Museum” on Friday, 20 September 2013.

    There will be three sessions, starting at 18:00, 20:00 and 22:00.  If you want to experience this magic, please book well in advance since only a limited number of visitors can be accommodated in each session.  Entrance fees are payable in advance: R20 per adult and R10 per child 6 years and older (children under 6 are free of charge).

    Tickets must be paid for and collected beforehand at the National Museum, 36 Aliwal Street.  For bookings and more information contact us at 051-4479609 and speak to Diane.